Skip to main content



The Daily Tar Heel is a student-run newspaper that is independent of the University. Their focus is on campus events, sports, art, culture, and politics. Their office building is not located on campus, but close by on Franklin Street. Inside there are desks that write for each of the above topics. Each desk requires a specific writing style, and a distinct method for accumulating sources. Together, these individual desks make up the entire newspaper.

After reading about The Daily Tar Heel, I found out that “the paper circulates 10,000 free copies each Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the regular academic year… making it the largest community newspaper in the area” (About the). This provides easy news access to the stereotypical poor college student. The writers work hard to provide students with the most accurate and relevant news because a lot of students do not have access to tv and news channels. For me, as a freshman living in a dorm I feel as though I am very uneducated about the world right now; therefore, I wish I took more advantage of these free newspapers. This ultimately led to my research; I was interested in how The Daily Tar Heel (DTH) is composed and how each section impacts the newspaper as a whole. I was also curious about how the DTH influences the community of students and alumni.

Background information:

The Daily Tar Heel has adjusted to fit a more modern society since its creation in 1893. Joel Zogry author of Print News and Raise Hell, states that since its formation, the Daily Tar Heel has “evolved into a chronicler or much more than sports” (Macaulay, 2019, p. 478). When this newspaper was first created the majority of its focus was on athletics, but as times and reporters have evolved so has the newspaper. It now focuses on arts, culture, politics, popular events on campus, and sports. As the University has changed so has their news system. As new reporters and editors are hired their individual writing styles shape the newspaper.

Observational Data and Analysis:

Observation 1:

On February twenty-fifth, I came in at four forty-five to interview Evely Forte, the assistant editor for the University desk. This desk focuses on popular or upcoming events around campus. I also spoke with a general writer, Jessica Mastor, who had just written a story on Hinton James day. The University desk strives to write stories to make the reader feel inclusive, even if they couldn’t be there in person. As a general audience member, we are unaware of what goes into creating a story for The Daily Tar Heel.

To start, the night before a story is due the writer gets emailed something called a shell. This shell lays out their specific topic for the week, any general information the DTH wants the writer to include, and source suggestions. The next day is spent meeting and interviewing with these potential sources. The Daily Tar Heel takes pride in reporting the most accurate information and statistics. Before talking with Evely, she was working one on one with a general writer fact checking all her direct quotations, background information, and dates. This is to guarantee that they report on the full truth; this is very important for their ethos.

Overall, the University desk focuses on big issues circulating campus. To create a story, general writers rely on their involvement and communication with professors and other students. Their writing style tends to be very informational. The University stories are a big component of the Daily Tar Heel because it keeps students and other alumni updated around campus.

Observation 2:

My next observation focused on another aspect of The Daily Tar Heel, the Sport’s desk. I spent time interviewing Brian Keyes, an assistant Sport’s editor. Different from the University desk, there are four different types of stories written at the Sport’s desk. First, there are side stories that focus on a certain angle and tend to be more descriptive. Side stories spotlight a certain player and their performance. These are much more interesting to read compared to an analyst, which is a step by step breakdown of the game. Analysts are intended to inform people of the big plays and statistics for those that couldn’t physically attend the game. These stories must be written very soon after the game has ended; if it is not published in a reasonable timely manner then readers will get their news from somewhere else. Also, the readers are not going to care as much about a game the happened last week, that is old news.  The Daily Tar Heel is filled with a variety of these stories to keep all UNC sport’s fans up to date.

The last two styles are columns and features. Columns are opinion-based and are usually up to the writer to choose when to produce one. The last type of style is a feature, which focuses on one athlete and their athletic career. These are the most creative and varied among writers; it allows them to set the scene and choose their own expressive style. These require a lot of research and maturity so it is reserved for the more advanced writers. Features are also the most interesting to read about because so much is revealed about the athlete. This allows the Daily Tar Heel to provide a more personal account of an athlete, whereas us fans are only used to seeing them on the field or court. Sports are a big aspect of UNC, and the local paper must cover the latest news and biggest plays.


My research at The Daily Tar Heel was very worthwhile and I learned a lot from this experience. I learned what goes into generating a newspaper, and how each desk relates to the DTH as a whole; for example, each desk has a different writing style and method for collecting sources. This University paper reflects UNC’s culture and what makes this place so special. This newspaper defines what it means to be a Tar Heel. The University and Sport’s desk are only two of the components of the DTH, but each one is unique.


About the daily tar heel . (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2020, from

Macaulay, Alex. (May 2019). Print news and raise hell: the daily tar heel and the evolution of a modern university. The Journal of Southern History, 85(2), 478-479. Retrieved from

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Comments are closed.