DTH celebrates 114 years

One hundred and fourteen years ago, the seven founding editors of The Tar Heel, hardly could have imagined the growth and change that would come to their publication. On Feb. 23, 1893, a small tabloid-sized newspaper was published with the mission of providing a summary of all occurrences in the University and Chapel Hill, and "for the thorough discussion of all points pertaining to the advancement and growth of the University." This weekly publication, started by the Athletic Association, had only 250 subscribers, and the first Tar Heel was a far cry from the independent daily newspaper that has become The Daily Tar Heel, which has a circulation of more than 20,000. Throughout its years, the student newspaper has served as a teaching venue for future journalists and has provided a home to many UNC students. "The Tar Heel is kind of a lot of people's first community - UNC is a lot of people's first communities where people can build themselves," said Sharif Durhams, 1998-99 DTH editor. Many DTH alumni have gone on to futures in journalism, and some have received national acclaim. Novelist Thomas Wolfe served as editor of The Tar Heel from 1919 to 1920, and ESPN commentator Peter Gammons also wrote for the DTH in the late 1960s. "It's a great experience to kind of prepare you for real-world journalism," said Erica Beshears-Perel, 1997-98 DTH editor. "It's not really a classroom; it's an actual newsroom." Like commercial newspapers, The Tar Heel's appearance has changed throughout the years. The newspaper began publishing three days per week in 1925 and became a daily newspaper in 1929, running Tuesday through Sunday issues. During World War II, The Tar Heel returned to a weekly newspaper, but it resumed daily status in 1946 and eventually became a five-day publication, with Monday through Friday issues. The staff also increased in size, from its original seven-person editorial board to more than 150 students. The Tar Heel has seen changes in location almost as often as it changed size. Since moving out of a small storeroom on Rosemary Street, The Tar Heel headquarters moved to the Campus Y, New West, the Alumni building, Graham Memorial and finally the Student Union, where the newsroom sits today. Originally, subscriptions cost $1.50, or a single edition could be purchased for 5 cents. When The DTH left the control of the Athletic Association and fell under the charge of the Student Publications Union Board in 1923, it dropped subscriptions and began financing from student fees and advertising. In 1993 the newspaper became independent from the University and stopped accepting student fees. Until that year, the student body elected the DTH editor in a general election, along with the student body president. Some students thought the system was problematic, as all candidates would leave their work at the paper to spend most of their time in campaigning. Peter Wallsten, who served from 1992 to 1993, was the last editor to be elected. He now works for the Los Angeles Times. "It helped me learn why people read the paper and what they enjoy about it," Wallsten said. "I think it continues to shape how I approach stories as a reporter." Although the DTH still continues to follow its mission of informing the public about University events, Wallsten said the newspaper has a new goal of increasing readership. "One of the truly important missions of The Daily Tar Heel is to produce a product that is of interest to students who are just forming their habits," Wallsten said. Contact the University Editor at udesk@unc.edu.

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