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The Daily Tar Heel

It started with a mini bubble gum machine, a disco ball and a small green stegosaurus. 

They were the seeds of our trinket garden, and physical representations of our main goal: to make the newly-minted Lifestyle desk fun and eclectic. 

Even with this goal in mind, as we began to find our footing in the newsroom, we struggled to navigate soft news, joking about how our front-page stories were about bubbly arts events while the other desks’ were about the week’s breaking news.

“Us Lifestyle girls only know disco balls and Backlot Garden Spot,” the green stegosaurus says in a sticky note blurb attached to his neck, in reference to one of our earliest stories about a small food business pop-up behind the Lantern Restaurant.

It’s not to say that our coverage isn’t important, but in a newsroom that hadn’t had a dedicated arts desk in several years, we were unsure of how we would fill the role — or what our role was. 

But as we spent the year figuring it out, our garden has grown with the help of the contributions of writers and other editors. 

An orange snail from Sierra Pfeifer, last semester’s audio editor, a 3-D printed finger from Video Editor McKenzie Bulris and a pamphlet from a cult restaurant retrieved by our writer Satchel Walton have all dug roots into the space. 

There’s a set list from Bill Moore, who was the first person to perform in our office for a video series called Editors’ Notes, tucked between a C.D. we were sent to review and a Minecraft Valentine Eliza gave to Emi in February. 

As the trinket collection has grown, so has our content, and it is largely due to our thoughtful, innovative writers. 

We have published features on students and established artists alike, event coverage of everything from hometown shows to historical reenactments and reviews that make you laugh and think critically — we’ve even published what is probably the longest story ever written for The DTH.

We delight in each new trinket, and we delight in each new story and opportunity to expand our coverage even more. 


On either side of our garden are two cups.

One, Eliza’s cup, is decorated with the Sleepytime Celestial Tea bear, in all his warm and comfortable splendor. The other, Emi’s, adorns a simple painted rose and a small handle. Their insides often hold traces of crumbs from Cheez-Its or trail mix eaten during long nights when dinner and leaving the office seemed to be a far-off possibility. 

But despite rumbling stomachs and eyes sometimes glossed over from looking at words on a screen for too long, we laughed with our writers and forced them to take silly BuzzFeed quizzes and listened to bro-country songs. 

And, when we were done for the night — sometimes after many of the other desks had left — we walked to Chase Late Night together, where we gossiped and bonded over Josh Hutcherson’s “Straight but Not Narrow” campaign. (Seriously, look it up. It’s crazy.) 

So yeah, if you hadn’t already guessed from the headline, we’re leaving and we’re feeling sentimental after a year of figuring things out together — even if we’re heading toward more sleep, free evenings and other projects and clubs.

But besides a blooming trinket garden and a year of getting to cover the vibrant arts scene in the Triangle, the most important thing we figured out this year was how to be damn good friends to one another. 


We joke that we suffer withdrawals if we’re apart for more than a few days and that’s probably true — it’s the Eliza and Emi show. We think similarly, and often we can read each other’s minds. 

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And maybe we won’t miss those long, hungry nights, but we will miss sitting next to each other every day, in the spots we designated when we taped our headshots down and put our cups on either end of the garden.   

Thanks to The DTH, we’ll always have someone to send an insane Instagram Reel to, someone to go to a silly Carrboro event with and someone who will always listen to our songs of the day. 

And there couldn’t be a better reward for a year of figuring it out. 

@emimaerz | @eliza_benbow

@dthopinion |

Emi Maerz

Emi Maerz is a 2023-24 assistant lifestyle editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously covered UNC for the university desk. Emi is a sophomore pursuing a double major in journalism and media and dramatic art.

Eliza Benbow

Eliza Benbow is the 2023-24 lifestyle editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as summer university editor. Eliza is a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and creative writing, with a minor in Hispanic studies.