120 Years Old, 120-Point Font: Quick Tales from 2 Student Newspapers (Daily Tar Heel, Indiana Daily Student)

The Daily Tar Heel is 120 years old.  The vaunted student newspaper at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill celebrated the milestone late last week with cake, a special wraparound atop its regular issue, a video report— and a staff grave reading.

The latter took place at the tombstone of longtime broadcast journalist Charles Kuralt. As DTH newsroom adviser Erica Beshears Perel explained on a popular college media list-serv, “Kuralt is one of our more famous editors-in-chief (in fact, he never graduated because he spent so much time at the paper, the story goes).  He had finagled a coveted spot in the on-campus cemetery.  So the year after he died, we started a tradition of taking him a piece of birthday cake and that morphed into reading him the headlines, too.  You know how college kids love traditions. It used to be a fairly secret thing, but now it gets Instagrammed.”


On the paper’s birthday– but separate from the festivities– UNC School of Journalism & Mass Communication dean Susan King underscored the importance of j-education for the next 120 years.

Responding to a reader’s concern about students’ abilities to make a living with a j-degree, she wrote in Raleigh’s News & Observer, “This is not your father’s journalism school.  Our students and alumni are helping to create an entirely new world of communication where the future is wide open and opportunities abound. Our grads work at Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Hulu.  They work for N.C. dailies and community newspapers, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. . . . They are at TV and radio stations, advertising and PR agencies, political campaigns, nonprofits and businesses large and small.  Combine the skills we teach in the journalism school with the critical thinking and world view of a liberal arts education, and you’ve got graduates who are nimble, adaptable, and marketable.”


Also on the same day as the DTH birthday special, the Indiana Daily Student was grappling with a milestone that may alter its own editorial future– and covering it with 120-point font.  The big news: Indiana University is combining its highly-reputed School of Journalism with a pair of separate programs– the Department of Communication and Culture and the Department of Telecommunications.

On Friday, the IDS, IU’s student paper, confirmed news of the merger with a special, headline-laden front-page.  In an editor’s note also on page one, EIC Michael Auslen expressed worries about “a diminished school” for IU’s j-students, possible changes to student media including the IDS, and an apparent lack of administrative understanding about the importance of journalism in the digital age.


Auslen: “It’s rare that a newspaper is justified in printing a 120-point, bold headline.  Today is one of those days. . . . In July, President Michael McRobbie told the Herald-Times, ‘There’s no point in saving a school that trains people to manage fleets of horses if the motorcar has taken over horse-drawn transportation.’  Contrary to McRobbie’s belief, journalism isn’t dead. It is in a state of flux, as is the journalism school. . . . We’re rededicating ourselves to asking tough questions, seeking the truth, and serving you as the student voice of IU in every story we report.  We are not a horse-and-buggy operation.  We are– in print, online and through social media– your news.”

3 Responses to “120 Years Old, 120-Point Font: Quick Tales from 2 Student Newspapers (Daily Tar Heel, Indiana Daily Student)”
  1. I read the IDS piece when it was first published, hoping it would fit the hype and its headline. It didn’t. I sympathize with their position, but it seems to me that it’s mostly a self-interested story about a threat that hasn’t even happened yet.

    Also, from the IDS’ masthead: “…the IDS is chartered by the IU Board of Trustees…”

    Sorry, but that’s not ‘journalism independence’. It’s independence in-name-only. Newspapers like the IDS (it’s a great paper, very well written, excellent design) need to set themselves up as independent corporations, not as administrative off-shoots from the universities they cover.

    Think: The State News, Harvard Crimson, etc.

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