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No longer confidential 

If you've ever taken scuba diving lessons, or visited a dive store, or been lucky enough to gander at parrotfish swimming around a coral reef in the Caribbean, you've no doubt heard of Divers Alert Network. But if you're like most people, you've probably never heard of DAN, even if you've wondered what that foreign-looking flag was while speeding by their four-story headquarters on U.S. 15-501 in Durham. But that doesn't mean our cover story this week won't interest you. It's the classic tale of a well-meaning nonprofit that found a way to start bringing in a lot of money, and the effect that money had on its longtime leader, his chosen corporate counsel, and their supporters. It's a story that doesn't stray too far from messages of greed and aggrandizement found in bigger stories recently at companies like Enron and WorldCom.

The story is the result of four months' work by reporter Jennifer Strom, a veteran journalist who came to The Independent two years ago after a daily newspaper career in Maryland and North Carolina. She got the story the way lots of great reporters do: Luck and curiosity. Strom was looking up something at the Durham County courthouse and spotted a pile of papers on a shelf of court files. The top document said: "Strictly Confidential." She grabbed it. The document was part of an immense court file in the suits and countersuits between Peter Bennett, DAN's CEO, and a majority of the organization's board. In the course of reporting the story, she interviewed more than 30 people and traveled to an international divers' convention in Las Vegas.

Strom happens to be a scuba diver (though never has belonged to DAN), and says the message of the story goes far beyond diving. It's about how critical it is for a nonprofit's board of directors to look beyond good works to make sure the store is being properly run.

This week also marks the debut of our new arts and entertainment editor, olufunke moses. olufunke was our calendar editor, and after a lengthy search for a new A&E editor we slowly realized that the best person for the job was already in the newsroom. olu grew up in Durham and graduated from Jordan High School and UNC-Chapel Hill, where she was editor of the sauti mpya literary magazine and an artist-in-residence at the Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center. Professionally, she's been a writer, a researcher and a business facilitator.

olufunke wants the paper to become an advocate for artists in the community, capturing their passion. She wants to broaden our music coverage, with stories about musicians beyond the traditional genres. And she wants The Independent to be a window on the many communities that make up the Triangle. "I want to make sure that our arts coverage reflects that," she says.

We'll be adjusting and fine-tuning our arts coverage over the next few months. If there's an area you don't think is getting the attention it deserves, let her know at

More by Richard Hart


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