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The Daily Tar Heel

Why The Daily Tar Heel is "fresh" after 125 years.

corey risinger

In an interview for this 125th anniversary paper, Emily Steel contrasted The Daily Tar Heel experience to that at legacy papers. 

“Everyone who works (at the DTH) is always young, and they’re always fresh,” Steel, now a reporter for The New York Times, said. “For these people there never was a way things were done before, because they’re the ones doing it now.” 

Reflecting on this anniversary paper — and on my own four years on Rosemary Street — I’ve come to realize just how much Steel’s statement resonates. Since I joined the State & National Desk fall semester of my first year, I’ve observed and learned. That’s what we’ve all done. 

I wondered how Sarah Brown, class of 2015, could possibly balance taking interviews from Board of Governors members and editing, having just returned from a run. And I laughed at the spare blazer she always kept in her trunk. I learned that 15 sources for a news story does not equate to 14-16 inches, basically ever. I listened intently as editor after editor shared pieces of DTH lore, stories of their triumphs and corrections. 

No day at the DTH is the same, and yet the newspaper creates a lineage. It’s a connection built upon the shared experiences interviewing, the dinners we’ve salvaged with stale Cheetos from the vending machines, the realizations that a single weekend can hold a massive on-campus protest, an NCAA hearing in Nashville and the first week of classes. 

Each editor approaches their coverage area distinctly, and yet so many of us remember sitting on a rotating collection of overstuffed couches and shuffling back-and-forth between the office and class… and then back to the office. Almost every experience we have with an editor is one that we incorporate into our daily DTH existence. 

Certain stories, like the NCAA’s investigation into the University, lend themselves to cross-generational conversations. When news broke that the NCAA would call coaches to Nashville, we called Bradley Saacks, class of 2016. Before meeting with the NCAA in Indianapolis or conference-calling in Chapel Hill, we researched. Our own trials covering the athletic-academic scandal quickly found footing in the work of those before us. We referenced articles by Amanda Albright and Sara Salinas, classes of 2014 and 2017, respectively. We read pieces by Sarah Frier from 2011, calling for University transparency. 

Any year at the newspaper, it’s easy to feel like the staff faces a unique set of challenges. Within the past academic year especially, as The Daily Tar Heel has confronted tough financial decisions, a move, and a swath of University and sexual assault investigations, being an editor has felt like it’s brought high stakes. 

Compiling this 125th anniversary edition was a pretty clear and comforting reminder that, as Steel explained, part of the DTH is always feeling new and different. Researching in the archives of Wilson Library, a team of first-year through junior writers and editors revisited some of our most controversial and memorable stories since 1893. And they considered how the past 125 years might contribute to The Daily Tar Heel’s next. Reporters tackled issues most central to the DTH’s future success and most difficult to consider, writing about office culture, the future of college media and the evolving roles of women in professional newsrooms. 

We can only cover so much of the DTH’s history — a fact made more obvious by the pages of articles we left tagged in the archives. But we hope this issue can begin to consider the ways in which our past 125 years have contributed to the paper we love and work for today. 

Maybe the “eternal youth of The Daily Tar Heel” — coined by Jen Pilla Taylor — is that we’re all “fresh” and ready to try.

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