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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Why you should get to know your local student journalist


Ethan E. Horton is the 2023 summer managing editor of The DTH.

My first story at The Daily Tar Heel was about the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education working out a way to evaluate its superintendent. I left class in Carolina Hall at 6:15 p.m. on a Thursday and sat down in the Student Union soon after for the virtual meeting at 6:30 — stressed out of my mind.

It was my very first story, and I was terrified I would miss something important or get things wrong. After all, I didn't know Chapel Hill. I was a sophomore, but I was still new to the area — we were sent home just a few weeks into my first year because of COVID.

Okay, yes. It may not seem like a super important story, but we have readers who have children in CHCCS who really care about how the superintendent is evaluated. And, district leadership should be held accountable, even in the smallest ways. That's journalism.

My second story was about North Carolina Oyster Week. I had a ton of fun with this one — I talked to restaurateurs and oyster farmers and scientists, and it was even in that week's print edition. I was finally getting in the groove, and illuminating some of the state's agricultural diversity.

One of my most recent bylines was on the U.S. Supreme Court overturning affirmative action. Sure, I didn't pressure the Court to release the decision or have any big part in what the decision or dissent says, but we got that information out quickly to our readers — who deserve to know as soon as possible when breaking news happens.

We have writers at every Chapel Hill Town Council meeting. Every UNC Board of Trustees meeting. Every football game. We cover the N.C. General Assembly, student government and the courts.

Recently, student journalists have uncovered hazing and worse in Northwestern University's athletics programs. One exposed Stanford's president's wrongdoings and the president resigned.

And guess what? We're balancing being a student at one of the best public universities in the country on top of it all. And the competing deadlines. And the stress.

And, importantly, student journalism happens at UNC and outside The Daily Tar Heel. The Hussman School has some of the most talented writers, reporters, designers and photographers I've ever seen.

The point is, we're students.

We're students who are learning how to do this journalism thing on the fly.

We're students who get things wrong sometimes. We're students who miss some things. We're students who might not have the connections or experience that other, more seasoned journalists do.

Yet, still, we break the news on lead in campus water, the School of Civic Life and Leadership, University housekeeper pay, abuse at Chapel Hill Bible Church, business school discrimination allegations, the University's maintenance backlog and accessibility issues, affirmative action, gerrymandering, abortion, elections and everything in between.

We're students whose writing and editing and designing and photographing makes up one of the best student newspapers in the country, and the main print newspaper remaining in Orange County.

And we hope to lay the foundations for the next generation of news. So, yeah – support student journalism.


@dthopinion |

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Ethan E. Horton

Ethan E. Horton is the 2023-24 city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a city & state assistant editor and as the 2023 summer managing editor. Ethan is a senior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and political science, with a minor in history.