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DTH editor says article on crime from Durham lacked context

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -

The editor of The Daily Tar Heel wrote in Thursday's editions that a story earlier in the week addressing the impact of Durham residents on Chapel Hill crime lacked context.

Tuesday's article, "Durham crime crossing over into Chapel Hill," was published in time for the five-year anniversary of former student body president, Eve Carson. She was murdered by two men who lived in Durham on March 5, 2008.

The article sparked outrage among some readers. As DTH editor Andy Thomason acknowledged, many who responded online believed the article "played into the stereotype that Durham is a scary place that UNC students should avoid."

Thomason wrote that was not the intent of the article. Thomason said the article was "an opportunity to analyze how often crime in Chapel Hill results in the arrests of Durham residents."

Overall, Thomason admitted the story lacked context.

"This is not an excuse," Thomason said in his response. "As journalists, we should have ensured that no angle was left unaddressed, especially on an issue of such importance. We didn't do that, and that was wrong."

The DTH article analyzed 10 years of Chapel Hill Police records and wrote that "about one-fifth of local robberies, murders, kidnappings, rapes and affrays come from Durham."

The article suggested that Chapel Hill's status as a wealthier community made it a target for Durham criminals. The DTH also reported that of Chapel Hill's 15 murders or attempted murders over the last 10 years, seven were committed by residents of Durham.

However, the DTH quoted Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall as saying most Orange County crimes are committed by county residents, but about a fourth of the robbery and assault cases his office is prosecuting involve residents of Durham.

You can read the editor's full response here.

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