Student guest post: Local government and the issue with the younger population

Students in J457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the fifth of those posts. Kerry Lengyel is a senior reporting major who has been the city editor at UNC’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, for two semesters now. She is originally from New Jersey but currently calls Chapel Hill home.

It’s the game all journalists play each day: How do we get readers interested in our content? How do we crank out news that interests a majority of the public? How do we get the most likes, shares or favorites on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?

It’s a constant struggle, but one always worth fighting for in the end.

To me, as the city editor at my university’s newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, I feel an even harder push to get people to pick up the paper whenever there’s a local election around the corner.

As the editor of the city desk, I have the job to inform the community, both the Chapel Hill residents and the UNC student body, on who is running for office in our local government.

While reaching the older generation is rarely a strain on my mind, it’s the younger generation — the college students and the millennials — who keep me up at night.

As a college student myself coming from another state, I was not all that interested in Chapel Hill government. But after acquiring this position, it has found a real place in my heart.

I honestly do care about the development that is happening, or isn’t happening, in my area. I honestly do worry about bicyclist and pedestrian safety. I honestly do care about who will be the next Orange County commissioners, and I want UNC students to care as well.

But how do you do make students care about something they don’t feel affects them in any way, shape or form?

It feels impossible, but for now all I can do is try to bring the student body the news that they want to read, and bring it in a more exciting way.

For example, Chapel Hill Town Council is once again cracking down on the housing rule the city has, which states that no more than four unrelated persons may live under one roof. The town has been trying to enforce this rule for years, and it has led to hundreds of students being kicked out of their apartments, left with nowhere to go.

My job as the city editor is to inform the student body of this rule, because I’m positive many are unaware that this occupancy limit even exists.

How do we get this into the minds of the student body, though? We go out and we speak to them directly.

We find people directly affected by this housing limit, and we tell their stories, hoping that other students will pick up the paper the next day and have an opinion on the matter.

We hope these students will become angry or upset with this rule and actually come out to a Town Council public hearing to ask for change.

It’s the job of any journalist to inform their readership of things that directly affect them, but it’s an even tougher job when your readership doesn’t seem to care.

It’s all we can do as a newspaper to keep finding those stories to connect the student body to the town they live in and to make them worry about who will be making decisions on town government.

We may not all be from Chapel Hill originally, but we live here now, we have the chance to choose who represents us and we should take that chance whenever possible.