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The Daily Tar Heel

Here are the results of The Daily Tar Heel's third internal DEI audit


The Daily Tar Heel has completed its third internal audit.

This audit — completed between Oct. 25 and Dec. 12 — was largely different from the previous two (one released in November 2020 and the other released in May 2021), which primarily focused on demographics. This latest audit asked our staff their opinions on the state of diversity, equity and inclusion at the paper.

While some demographic questions remained, I felt it was important to take a temperature check on the DTH’s culture with regard to DEI because we can’t start anywhere without honestly looking at ourselves first.

As a Black journalist and the paper’s DEI officer, the results of the audit are mostly unsurprising. Still, I find it necessary to share them with the public in order to demonstrate that the paper is dedicated to accountability, and so that our readers can compare its results to the external/audience focused audit that will be released later this month.

The 19-question audit was mandatory for all members of the newsroom. In total, 97 staffers completed the survey.

Of those 97, 65 respondents were white, 14 were Asian, eight were Black, five were Hispanic and five were of two or more races/ethnicities. These numbers are more consistent with the UNC’s racial and ethnic demographics than in past years, but still, in keeping with the trends of our previous two audits: The DTH’s newsroom remains predominantly white. And it is of note that the sample this past semester, 97, is far smaller than the 200-plus staffers surveyed during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Race and ethnicity was one of two demographic questions asked in the audit — the other being asking about academic classification at UNC — because I feel that the paper’s race-related failures have persisted at a higher level than those related to other identity-related categories.

The DTH is far from perfect in the areas of socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality, immigrant status, etc., but it is my opinion as the DEI officer that our relationship with race has been the most damaging to the integrity of the paper. 

Office culture and leadership 

When asked, “On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best, how welcoming of an environment is the DTH?” a rating of 4 was the most popular choice, with 52.6 percent of respondents selecting this response. The second-most selected choice was 3, with 23.7 percent of respondents selecting this response.

About 86 percent of respondents said they had never experienced anything unwelcoming or disparaging at the DTH that they think/know has to do with any aspect of their identity. Just over 10 percent of respondents said they weren’t sure and that such identity-based slights have possibly occurred. The remaining 4.1 percent said yes.

Of the respondents, 96.9 percent said leadership at the DTH (managers, editors, etc.) does impress them as capable of handling issues of identity discrimination. The remaining 3.1 percent said leadership does not impress them as capable of handling such issues.

Additionally, 89.7 percent said leadership at the DTH did not perpetuate and/or engage in identity discrimination, whereas 10.3 percent said leadership does perpetuate and/or engage in identity discrimination.

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When asked whether they would encourage others to work at the DTH, only 1 percent responded no, while 60.8 percent said yes and 38.1 percent responded “it depends.”

Those who selected “it depends” were asked to elaborate. Most elaborations consisted of comments regarding the paper’s time commitment. However, some responses, such as those below, spoke directly to how matters of DEI ought to factor into whether someone joins the DTH:

““I was not prepared for how white the staff or admin is. I didn't realize how much I'd be thinking about race and diversity– especially considering it's something I already think about so much as a poc.” - Anonymous”

““I think certain individuals and certain communities in particular have a very well-founded distrust of the DTH, and while I think there's obviously a lot of power in being able to go into the paper and attempt to enact meaningful change, I don't think it should be expected out of anyone. So, if a person already feels slighted by the DTH, whether in their issues with diversity and representation, its extractive/exploitative practices, or for other reasons, I'm not going to push them to join it.” - Anonymous”

Additional audit results:

  • 85.6 percent of respondents said “yes,” they think the DTH genuinely cares about DEI
  • 14.4 percent responded that they think “only sometimes” the DTH genuinely cares about DEI
  • No respondents selected “no”
  • 99 percent said they think DEI should play a role in their time at the DTH. One respondent said DEI should not play a role in staffers’ time at the DTH
  • 93.8 percent of respondents said they think DEI and objectivity coexist within the DTH’s journalism. The remaining 6.2 percent of respondents disagreed
  • 76.3 percent of respondents selected gender as the DTH’s most adequately addressed area of DEI
  • 58.8 percent of respondents selected disability as the DTH’s most inadequately addressed area of DEI.

Reporting and coverage

  • 91.8 percent of respondents said they felt comfortable approaching and reporting on stories related to their identity/identities, while 8.2 percent said they were not comfortable with such responsibilities/assignments.
  • 87.6 percent of respondents said they feel that underrepresented groups in media/journalism are uplifted by the DTH’s coverage. 
  • 12.4 percent said they did not feel that underrepresented groups are uplifted by the DTH’s coverage.

To address the newsroom’s perception of external harm it has caused, staffers were asked to read the below excerpt from Black Congress’ "The Daily Tar Heel: A Terror to Black UNC" and then asked to respond to the sentiments in the excerpt below:

““As a student activist on campus, the Daily Tar Heel has always been a dark, looming cloud. We refer to them as vultures because they're always waiting in the shadows, ready to pounce on grieving, hurting Black people for the sake of an article. This past year was extremely triggering and exhausting for Black people. There was a moment where I woke up each day for two weeks in a row to a new headline of a Black person being slaughtered in a white supremacist murder. I could barely eat, had nightmares each night, and was hardly getting by as I organized a protest the community needed.  Daily Tar Heel writers reached out for an interview and were very inappropriate in how they aggressively engaged me and disrespected my boundaries and right as a Black person to mourn and have space. They even leveraged their large audience and the fact that the piece about us was going out regardless of if we gave our input or not in order to pressure us into speaking to them. I was so disgusted and will never forget that moment.” - from "The Daily Tar Heel: A Terror to Black UNC" by Black Congress ”

Here are some of our staffers’ responses: 

  • “Complicated. It gets to the core problem of what the role of journalism is. If it is to report what is happening, then that duty must be completed, regardless of the feelings of any involved. If journalism is to be a community organization, does that break the objectivity of a newspaper? The particular historical moment captured in this piece illustrates that. No matter what the wishes of any involved were, conversations were going to be happening in spring of 2021 about race and activism. People would talk about it and the DTH would cover it. It is fine to not want to participate in that, but I think recognition of this truth is necessary.”
  • “I think it expresses not wanting to be used as like trauma porn for readers and after 2020 protests, it was difficult to separate attention with what they are talking about. We should be careful about wanting to cover monumental moments and acting with care/ keeping up with these organizations when things are normal.”
  • “This seems to be the general perception the student body has of the DTH - caring more about the articles going out instead of the sources as actual people.”

Many respondents expressed surprise and disbelief at the excerpt. Some respondents said they did not agree with the sentiments expressed, and some did not respond at all. This question, like all the questions, was required.

Objectively, the racial demographics of the newsroom dictated the results of this audit. With our newsroom being 67 percent white, it was assumed that their perspective on the questions asked would be reflective of that identity. In my estimation, that assumption was correct, as many of the percentages detailed above paint a portrait of the DTH in a position of equity and inclusion that it is just starting to potentially approach.

However, the results of this audit, as well as the external/audience audit to come, will be used to create policies and culture change within the DTH that will actually allow the paper to reach the level of equity and inclusion that should be expected and is required of a paper of this caliber.