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The Daily Tar Heel

Farewell column: Saying goodbye to the DTH, speed bumps and all


Editor-in-Chief Praveena Somasundaram reflects on her time at The Daily Tar Heel. 

When I was a baby, my parents would put me in the car after work and drive around our apartment complex because there were a lot of speed bumps. When our tires went up and over each one, I would laugh.

It was like a rollercoaster, but baby-sized.

Though I don’t remember those drives, I do know I’ve always loved movement. As a child, I rode escalators in the mall up and down until my stomach hurt. I ran around outside until I’d fallen so much my clothes were grass-stained green.

I’ve started to think maybe that’s why I love journalism. The news cycle is also always moving, changing, taking you every which way.

The same is true at The Daily Tar Heel.

There are some days when I finish editing the last story and leave the office at 3 a.m. On others, news breaks out of the blue and people across the newsroom have to pivot to cover it. We never know what might come our way.

But some things at the DTH stay the same every day. For me, it’s how much I love this paper and the people I met here.

Don’t get me wrong. There are things I won’t miss — sleepless nights, waking up to alarms I’ve set for every hour so as not to miss breaking news and the days when I felt like the weight of this job would break me.

Sometimes I wonder if it did. But for each time I cracked even a little, my DTH crew glued me back together tenfold.

This whole year, there have been 23 people buckled in beside me, bracing for impact, good and bad.

We’ve held hands and cried in the office conference room. We’ve spent holidays, birthdays, NCAA championship games together. We’ve screamed the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” at the top of our lungs with the windows down.

We fell down a lot, and we also fought like hell to get back up. To get back to the good parts — the ones that make your heart feel light, right before the drop and the scream and the hands in the air.

Like when we got to hand out basketball special editions — three times.

The day our last one came out, after UNC defeated Duke in the Final Four, two other DTH students and I found ourselves in the back of a van, crouched beside thousands of the “Defeating Doubt Together” papers.

We knew people would want the edition commemorating the win that ended Mike Krzyzewski’s career, so we printed 30,000 copies — so many we had to rent a U-Haul to carry them.

A UNC alumna I met while handing out papers that day said: “My friend was the editor of the paper back in the day, so I know how much work this was.”

She's right. I’ve lost count of how many articles I’ve edited and how many nights I’ve stayed up to get stories published. Even the night of the Final Four win, I rushed Franklin for a couple minutes before running to the DTH office to get to work.

But with each special edition we made, people told me they were mailing copies home to their family and framing them as graduation gifts.

To have been a part of making papers that so many hold dear is something I’ll never forget. When I frame the papers on my own wall someday, I’ll remember that I wouldn’t have wanted to make them with anyone else.

There are also the things that most people don’t see and probably won’t frame. Covering meetings, investigating complex issues, asking the toughest questions to answer at this University. We do that, together, every day of the week.

To find people who are willing to ride in a U-Haul, answer the phone at any hour and drop what they’re doing at a moment’s notice is a rare and beautiful thing.

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To find people who do that for something bigger than themselves, for the chance to make a difference? It took my breath away.

That’s what makes saying goodbye so hard.

If you had asked me even just days before the application was due, I would have told you that I would never be good enough to run this place. As a brown woman, I wasn't even sure the DTH could love me the way I loved it.

It was not unlike when, by all accounts, you are tall enough to get on a rollercoaster, but your heart is still full of fear. I'm lucky to have had people who pushed me to get on the ride and stayed with me the whole way.

After four years at the DTH, I can say that it has moved and changed me for the better.

I’ve learned a lot here. Like, it’s okay to be caught when you’re falling. Dinner breaks are better together. Remember to say “good job” and “I love you.” And stories, no matter how big or small, are more powerful than we think — they can move the people around us.

Getting to put “editor-in-chief” next to my name has been the honor of a lifetime. Sometimes, it still doesn’t feel real. Leaving this place that has made me a better journalist and a better human feels even less real.

Life as a DTH editor is something few get, and it’s not always glorious, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything — not even a lifetime supply of loaded fries (no bacon).

In a month, I’m moving to Washington, D.C. It’s scary to think of waking up and not going straight to that little office on Franklin Street (though I’ll walk to my new office more peacefully, a safe distance away from the #spotted Slack channel).

It’s scary to say goodbye to a place that will always be home and people that will always be family. But I think I’m ready.

Because that’s what the DTH taught me. There is so much moving, so much change, constantly. Sometimes, I won’t know what to do. I won’t have all the answers.

But I do know that I can get back up and that the good will come — and so will the laughs when I get over the speed bumps.