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The Daily Tar Heel

Platform: The DTH needs change to ensure a better future

Laney Crawley is the opinion editor of The Daily Tar Heel.

Laney Crawley is the opinion editor of The Daily Tar Heel.

The comprehensive coverage and workflow of The Daily Tar Heel have impressed me since my first year at UNC  — but the issues I noticed even back then remain unaddressed now.

My vision for the future is rooted in compassion and change — we need to deeply analyze our issues and be proactive about solving them.  

Management and structure 

The management team next year would include an editor-in-chief, a special projects managing editor focused on long-form investigative content, a print managing editor and a role combining our online and multimedia managing editors.

The special projects managing editor will lead a desk of investigative reporters who are dedicated to in-depth work, providing a platform for substantive investigative journalism without overwhelming desk editors. Unlike our enterprise managing editor position, this editor would oversee special projects staffers who are expected to pitch stories and have the time to pursue innovative long-form pieces. Similar desks have worked in the past — and reintroducing this allows some reporters to focus on long-form stories without the daily pressures of a typical news desk. 

Meanwhile, the print managing editor will oversee the print publication with a focus on designing engaging, creative A1 packages and front pages, ensuring that our physical edition remains captivating and relevant. 

Our online managing editor will oversee our online publication, and they will work with our multimedia desks and consider how we can maximize that content. I am condensing these two positions because I feel that the person in this role should have a good understanding of online and multimedia content, and the work should be intertwined — not separate enough to constitute two roles. 

Mental health and newsroom culture 

Addressing mental health concerns is a top priority for me. Burnout and turnover rates are alarming, highlighting the need for a more sustainable work environment. I will prioritize staff well-being over excessive coverage demands. I’d personally schedule regular mental health check-ins with staff, plan more activities outside the office and look into tangible, professional support options for individuals struggling. I would like to have a close connection with our advertisement staff and plan around midterm and finals season — this could look like pre-scheduled 12-page papers or ad-heavy papers during these periods. 

People need more compensation, and by eliminating a managing editor position, I’d reallocate funds to address this. I also will increase assistant editor pay, and if possible, provide additional support for our sports, design and photo teams, who often work on weekends and overtime for special edition papers. I'd also love for our special projects desk to assist in things like election coverage and take some of the stress off our University desk and city & state desk. 

However, people who work for the DTH are rarely doing it for the money — so I’d aim to remind them what brought them here in the first place by allowing space for personal goals and passion projects. I’d implement initiatives to boost morale, like featuring desk editors in "What Just Happened" segments. Since they are the ones close to these stories, they should be given the option to have face-time with our audience and be directly associated with their contributions to the newsroom. It's small changes like this that can make people feel valued in their work again and not just like cogs in the machine. 

I am committed to nurturing new talent by offering training opportunities, mentorship programs and avenues for advancement. We must make the DTH a desirable place to work, where individuals feel empowered to pursue leadership roles and contribute meaningfully. By cultivating a supportive and inclusive culture, we can attract and retain passionate staffers.

Diversity and inclusion 

Diversity and inclusion has been a key point in many previous editor-in-chief platforms, but little positive change has occurred. I’d like to start by continuing to rebuild our connection with the Black Student Movement by addressing the harm we have caused in the past and understanding what appropriate coverage looks like in the future. It was disheartening not to see a Black History Month edition in February this year, and while it may seem small, these things do not go unnoticed by marginalized groups. 

I’d also like desk editors to undergo meaningful diversity, equity and inclusion training at orientation. We have to show we are committed to diversity, and not just in a performative way. To me, that means building a DEI team, led by a committed DEI coordinator, with staffers and members of the editorial team. This team will be responsible for tasks such as proactive outreach, handling sensitivity in our coverage and communication as well as intentional recruitment efforts. 

Change is possible, and I know that a more accountable and considerate DTH is in our future. 


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