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Now a notable rivalry in college journalism is about to be tested.
Despite the uncertainties of COVID-19 on the college basketball season, The DTH and The Chronicle are competing in their third annual Rivalry Challenge, which began Monday and goes through Feb. 6.
In the challenge, the two independent student newspapers team up to make a historic special edition in print and online. Then they compete in a fundraising challenge to see which nonprofit newsroom has the best fans.
It’s too soon to know whether the UNC-Duke men’s basketball game will be played, at 6 p.m. Feb. 6, as scheduled; the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in games throughout the season being delayed or canceled. But the newspapers’ staffs remain committed to continue chronicling university politics, student life and sports in the pandemic, and they continue to seek support from their readers and supporters.
“In the year since the last Rivalry Challenge, student journalists have more than proven their worth,” said Erica Beshears Perel ’98, general manager of The DTH. “The UNC and Duke communities are better informed about the pandemic, remote classes, the election and, yes, about college basketball, because of the tireless efforts of student journalists at The Chronicle and at The Daily Tar Heel.”
Both newsrooms have been working remotely or in socially distant offices since March. The sports and photo staffs have covered outdoor sports in person, wearing masks and other PPE to stay safe; they’ve adopted new ways to cover away games when they can’t travel; and they’ve asked critical questions related to athlete safety during the pandemic. They’re hoping to cover the UNC-Duke game in person, but only if it’s safe.
Much of the advertising revenue that has long supported student journalists’ work has disappeared in the pandemic. The local economies of college towns also are hurting.
“Now more than ever, it’s essential to invest resources in the next generation of professional journalists, and we are committed to providing our staffs the tools and training they need to thrive,” said Chrissy Beck ’89, general manager of The Chronicle.
Rivalry Challenge III will end just before tipoff of the men’s basketball game on Feb. 6. The special edition comes out on both campuses on Friday, Feb. 5. People who donate at least $25 will have a copy of the special edition mailed to them. Fans of both teams can track the fundraising and catch up on great rivalry stories at dailytarheel.com/rivalrychallenge or dukechronicle.com/rivalrychallenge.
The first Rivalry Challenge in 2019 raised a combined $75,000 in advertising revenue and donations for the two newsrooms. This revenue innovation received national attention in journalism circles and became a model for others. In fall 2019, there were Rivalry Editions from student papers at Michigan and Ohio State, Texas and Oklahoma, Florida and Georgia, and Washington and Oregon.
The DTH and The Chronicle are nonprofit newsrooms. For several years, they have sought and received investment from alumni and friends while working on new ways to generate revenue and streamline operations.