Kenneth Joel Zogry is the author of Print News and Raise Hell, a book written on the history of The Daily Tar Heel. For the past week, the DTH has published excerpts from the book to celebrate the paper's 125 year anniversary. The book can be purchased on Amazon or through UNC Press.
Editor-in-chief Tyler Fleming spoke on the phone with Zogry to talk about what the impact of this book will be for the UNC community.
The Daily Tar Heel: What first drew you to writing a history of the DTH?
Ken Zogry: For some years, since 1998, I’ve been involved with UNC history as a public historian. I first did a book on The Carolina Inn, and then I had done some other projects. I’ve written some pieces on various topics for the Carolina Alumni Association, and I was brought back in when the Inn was renovated between 2009 and 2013 to do all of those historical exhibits. And in the course of doing those historical exhibits there is a whole column on media and journalism. And I didn’t pick all those people, and there are some thousand people in the whole thing that runs throughout the whole building of various alumni and faculty and so forth, so I got information from the paper and I had done bits of work in the paper whether it was on The Carolina Inn or an article on the origin of Memorial Hall or just various different pieces.
What really happened — we were working on the last picture in the section that has the sports teams in one of the lounges upstairs, we’ve got pictures of supposedly every championship team of any stripe lining the walls, and we needed the most recent one. So I called the DTH and got (former general manager) Kevin Schwartz on the phone, and he said he could supply that photograph. I needed the 2009 picture of the team, so I called the DTH and Kevin got on the phone. He and I got into a conversation, and I said "I’ve been doing all this research for the Inn and some other projects, and there really isn’t a book on the history of The Daily Tar Heel." And he said "Oh, yeah. People have been talking about it for years. Let’s get together and talk about it." So we talked about it and, you know, essentially, DTH Media commissioned me to do the book.”
DTH: What do you hope the UNC community takes away from this book?
KZ: Well, the book does two things, as Ed Yoder concisely says on the back cover. It tells two interlocking stories. One is the evolution of the modern university that developed after the Civil War and Reconstruction when UNC reopened with an entirely new pedagogical model, but basically the basis of a modern research university. And what this book does is give a history of UNC, in essence, from the late-19th century through the 20th century. And that does not exist anywhere. There is nowhere someone can go for a concise history like that.
The other thing is it tracks the history of the paper. It became clear to me that the way to do that was not like how some people approached it before, which was to get really deep into newsroom stories and that sort of thing because, in reality, that only interests a few people. It was more important to look at the big picture. And the big picture has to do with regards to the paper itself and the University — what it means to be a public university, what it means to have academic freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of the press at a public university, one of the nation's premier public universities.
And it, of course, tracks the history of how we’ve dealt with race, gender, sexual identity and the whole development from the beginning of big-time athletics and the problems. And you know I didn’t go into it just to look at the problems, but there is really nowhere else you can go to look at how intercollegiate athletics started at the University and then developed into the 20th century. It’s not a definitive sports history of UNC, but it does provide the framework for understanding how intercollegiate sports started and the development, but also all these other things.
This is a key quote: “All of these projects are timeless.” So while the book is a history, I was very specific in writing it. Just picked topics, like Jack Betts said on the back cover, issues that vex us still. Virtually everything I write about has some modern corollary.
DTH: What is one common theme you noticed over the 125 years of the DTH?
KZ: There is a consistency, but I don’t suggest that the consistency is not just for the paper, but also for the University. It’s a consistency that everyone associated with the paper and the University, and I mean with the University, students, the administration, faculty, the alumni, trustees, everyone believes strongly in our public institution.
Democracy is a fragile commodity and at a public university in particular — and again these issues of academic freedom and freedom of the press have to be guarded and carefully nurtured — we’ve seen in the University and particularly the staff of the newspaper is 125 years of doing just that. Everyone who has worked at that paper from Charles Baskerville to (Tyler Fleming) believed very strongly in the strength of a public university, and the independence of a free press and a free academic climate.
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