I was standing on Hooker Fields, covered head to toe in Holi powders, when a student I didn’t know walked up to me.
“Are you Praveena?” she asked.
I answered yes. What she said next left me in tears:
“Oh my gosh, well I love The Daily Tar Heel, and I love seeing a beautiful South Asian woman being the face of it.”
It struck me because it’s why I do what I do — it’s the biggest reason why I stayed at the DTH.
I’ve worked at the paper since the first semester of my first year at UNC, and I never wanted to be an editor, let alone the editor-in-chief. But when the application period rolled around, I started to think, “What if?”
What the stranger at Holi Moli said to me confirmed the conclusion I had come to when I sent in my application for the DTH’s top job last spring: If I was selected, I could have the power and privilege to help move the newsroom forward, to make it a paper that everyone could see themselves in.
It was a lofty goal. But it is also our responsibility as journalists and as the largest news organization in the county to serve our community the way it deserves.
As the University approaches the end of another academic year, there is yet another year of news to look back on. At the DTH, it was another year of news breaking during class, studying for exams between finishing print pages and navigating the lines between being a student and a journalist.
Student journalism is unique in that way — we are often experiencing the news as we’re covering it.
This year at UNC, we reported on the changing COVID-19 policies and masking guidelines as the campus began the transition to its “new normal.” We were working through our own transition as well — returning to in-person work as a newsroom.
That was a big theme of this year: transition.
And the DTH was right there — with reporters and photographers at each NCAA Tournament game, up-to-date coverage of each play and special edition papers.
But there is so much more that occurred throughout this year, so many more questions that have been left unanswered.
The campus community grappled with the loss of fellow students this year. What else is the University planning to do to make the campus a safer, more supportive space?
Two buildings with known white-supremacist namesakes were renamed after UNC "firsts": Hortense McClinton, the first Black professor at the University, and Henry Owl, the first American Indian student and person of color to attend UNC. When will the many other buildings that bear names tied to white supremacy be renamed?
The UNC Board of Trustees initially failed to vote on tenure for Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, to become a Knight Chair at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. How will UNC ensure that it will work to properly value current and potential faculty of color?
These are some of the many questions the DTH strives to ask in order to hold the University accountable. That is and has been our promise to readers.
In doing so, the paper also aims to realize its own faults and shortcomings. We would not fulfill our responsibility to our community without being critical of the newsroom in the same way we are of the University.
Our paper’s makeup and practices are inherently linked to the quality of our coverage, and there is so much work that still needs to be done.
We have our own unanswered questions and we’ve dealt with our own challenges this year. But one thing is for sure: The DTH will strive to continue being a publication that pushes the boundaries of journalism to their furthest limits — and a publication committed to the people who read it at UNC and beyond.
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