One of the first things I was told when I moved here nearly five years ago is that you have to choose a side: Duke or UNC (or, I suppose, N.C. State). 

I’d arrived in the middle of the NCAA Tournament—Duke won that year—but college basketball wasn’t really my thing. It had been when I was a kid, and in the ’80s, UNC had Michael Jordan and Kenny Smith and J.R. Reid, so even though I lived in Florida and had neither set eyes on Chapel Hill nor could find it on a map, I followed the Tar Heels religiously. (Which, of course, meant I hated Duke religiously, too.) But time passed, I moved on, and the world of college ball—really, sports in general—slipped from my mind. 

Moving here didn’t rekindle the fire. And I never did choose a side. I opted instead to remain casually agnostic, respecting the fact that Duke-UNC is the greatest rivalry in college hoops, even if the Tar Heels have gone belly-up this year. The game is Saturday night. If I’m at a bar that’s showing it, maybe I’ll watch for a bit. 

But there’s another Duke-UNC rivalry that’s closer to my heart. Right up until tipoff—5:59 p.m. on Saturday—the two universities’ student-run newspapers are facing off in their second-annual fundraising competition, a challenge to see which newsroom can bring in the most money. The Daily Tar Heel topped The Chronicle last year, with both publications pulling in a collective $75,000. 

These outlets are valuable to this community right now. This year, the DTH has been all over the Silent Sam story. And with Chapel Hill effectively being a news desert, the ferocious student paper is indispensable to the town, as well. The Chronicle, too, has broken stories the Duke administration would rather have kept hidden, like the time it sold students’ data to the Chinese government.

But these papers are also immensely valuable to the uncertain future of my profession. These students know that a journalism degree isn’t an MBA. They’re doing it because they want to do it, and student papers are giving them the chance to learn how to do it well. They’re talented, they’re tenacious, and whatever form journalism takes next, they’re going to be leading the way. 

So do me a favor: Head over to or (or both) and throw a few dimes in the bucket. Then settle back and watch the game—if that’s your thing.

Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at

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