Sunshine Center Awards Frank Barrows Award to the Daily Tar Heel

The Daily Tar Heel received the Frank Barrows Award for Excellence in Student Journalism for its coverage of the “Silent Sam” controversy at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The Sunshine Center of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition presented the inaugural Frank Barrows Award for Excellence in Student Journalism to the Daily Tar Heel for its coverage of a controversy surrounding the Silent Sam Confederate monument. In late 2019, the Daily Tar Heel exposed a settlement between the UNC Board of Governors and the Sons of Confederate Veterans in which the BOG agreed to return the monument, which once stood on the UNC campus, to the SCV and established a $2.5 million trust for the monument’s preservation. The Daily Tar Heel’s coverage revealed that the settlement negotiations may have occurred in secret in violation of North Carolina open meeting laws.

Daily Tar Heel reporters Charlie McGee, Maeve Sheehey, Marco Quiro-Gutierrez, and Preston Lennon were among the many student journalists involved in the coverage. McGee, Quiro-Gutierrez, and Lennon accepted the award March 9 at Sunshine Day, the NC Open Government Coalition’s annual event that focuses on government transparency issues.

“The students worked through final exams and holidays to bring this important story to our community,” said Erica Perel, general manager of the DTH. “So it feels amazing to have that hard work and dedication recognized.” 

The Frank Barrows Award honors the memory of Frank C. Barrows, the former managing editor of the Charlotte Observer, and a founding member and the first president of the NC Open Government Coalition. The award recognizes student journalism that uses access laws to tell compelling stories about events in North Carolina.

“Today’s student journalists have no better model than Frank Barrows when it comes to the craft of journalism and a commitment to transparency and good government,” Perel said. 

“The coalition established the Frank Barrows Award to recognize some of the best journalism in the state, which is often comes from college campuses,” said Brooks Fuller, director of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition. “The DTH’s coverage epitomizes the type of contribution journalists make when they use our public records and open meeting laws to doggedly pursue public interest stories.”  

The Barrows award, which includes a cash prize, was made possible by financial contributions from Barrows’s surviving spouse, Mary Newsom, and many of Barrows’s dear friends. For information on how to contribute to the Frank Barrows Award, please e-mail Brooks Fuller at To contribute directly, please send a check made payable to the NC Open Government Coalition with the memo line “Frank Barrows Award fund” or make a donation via PayPal.  For more information on the award, please visit the NC Open Government Coalition website HERE.