Daily Tar Heel

First published in 1893 as the Tar Heel, the Daily Tar Heel has been a vital part of the Carolina student experience for more than a century. It was first published by the Athletic Association, a fact that drew criticism and an early competitor, the White and Blue. The White and Blue did not last long and the Tar Heel expanded its coverage on other aspects of student and university life. In 1923 the paper separated from the Athletic Association and became an official student publication, which included accepting money from student fees. By 1929 it was thriving, and began publishing six days a week, changing its name to the Daily Tar Heel. Though it has never been formally associated with the journalism school, the paper has drawn heavily from journalism students for its staff.

In the 1940s and 1950s the Daily Tar Heel was at the center of the anti-Communist furor that swirled around the campus. The university had been accused of being too liberal since the leadership of Frank Porter Graham in the 1930s. The claim of liberal bias was soon applied to the student paper. It ran a few columns from a student who was a Communist Party member, and it drew the attention of the FBI in 1954 by publishing an April Fool's Day issue called the Daily Witch Hunt, which featured a photo of J. Edgar Hoover examining the rear end of a horse. The accusations of favoring left-leaning stories and opinions would continue to follow the paper into the 1960s as it covered the North Carolina Speaker Ban Law and student involvement in civil rights protests. The Daily Tar Heel increased its coverage of national issues during this period, even sending reporters to cover protests in Mississippi and Alabama.

The continuing criticism of the paper's coverage by conservative students and state residents often focused on the paper's acceptance of mandatory student fees. The paper's critics charged that students should not have to pay for coverage that they disagreed with. By the 1980s the paper began a move toward financial independence by setting up a nonprofit. In 1993, 100 years after it was started, the Daily Tar Heel became an independent publication. By the 2000s the newspaper was facing challenges similar to newspapers everywhere: declining ad revenues and a readership that was increasingly looking to newer, online resources for news and information.

Many Daily Tar Heel alumni have gone on to prominent careers in journalism, several winning Pulitzer Prizes. Some of the university's best-known alumni were editors of the paper, including university presidents Edward Kidder Graham and Frank Porter Graham, novelist Thomas Wolfe, and journalist Charles Kuralt.


Date Established: 1893

Date Range: 1893 – Present

Front page of the Daily Tar Heel published March 30, 1982, the day after the men??s basketball team won the NCAA championship. North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library.