‘Being virtual means we’re more accessible’; UNC’s editor-in-chief reflects on how remote work changed the newsroom

Throughout 2020, journalists across the country have shared their best practices for working through the pandemic. As we approach 2021, we’re asking what they learned this year and what they hope to learn in the year to come. 

Name: Anna Pogarcic 

Current job: Editor-in-chief, The Daily Tar Heel, University of North Carolina

Previous Institute Q&As: One Vote NC, a student news collaborative made up of seven college newspapers in North Carolina; The Daily Tar Heel’s infamous “clusterf–k” headline

What are the main lessons you learned this year from your reporting that you’ll use next year?

Pogarcic: We’ve had two main takeaways: Communication is key, and you shouldn’t justify things by saying “this is the way we’ve always done it.” This was our first year of having remote production be the norm and many of our staffers weren’t even in Chapel Hill, so we learned to be intentional about communication to make sure everyone was included. And even beyond that, we really had to rethink the way our newsroom worked. Because we’re a college paper, a lot of our readers also weren’t in Chapel Hill, so we couldn’t mostly rely on our print paper anymore. Having to question what we were doing and think about how we could do it differently taught us how to be adaptable.

How did your work change during the pandemic?

Pogarcic: The biggest thing for us was the shift to remote production. As a college paper, our office on the main street in Chapel Hill is our heartbeat for our student staffers. But this year, staffers weren’t allowed in because we felt it was too big of a risk to everyone’s health. Our work is highly collaborative, and it felt different to have to work together virtually as opposed to sitting next to each other in the office.

While it felt strange and was a challenge, we had no choice but to adapt, and I think we’re better off for it. Being virtual means we’re more accessible, and it also helped us think about news in a digital-first lens.

What do you hope to learn or cover in the coming year?

Pogarcic: The big thing for us is going to be how the spring semester compares to the fall. Will UNC have to send students home again? Will we see cases rise in Chapel Hill and across the state? How else could college life change? Our university adjusted its testing and re-entry plan for the spring, but we’re still seeing a lot of pushback from the community, students, and staff. It will be interesting to see how it plays out and what we learn.

How are you taking care of yourself now that you weren’t at the beginning of the pandemic?

Pogarcic: Being a student journalist is hard, and I’m just glad next semester is my last semester of college and I only need to take two more classes. It can be hard to handle everything with so much going on with classes and work and life, but I try to find joy when I get a chance to pause.

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