“If you’re not excited and nervous to cover something like that and to really nail a story like that,” Fowler said, “you’re probably not doing a good enough job or you’re not in the right profession because you should feel those nerves, that excitement, that want [and] that drive.”
Former DTH assistant editor Brendan Marks remembers his first UNC-Duke game as a student journalist all too well. Specifically, he can recount the warnings of The DTH writers who dared to venture before him: do not wear your nicest clothes to Cameron.
He didn’t listen — and, in return — he left Durham with flecks of Duke blue body paint transferred from the bodies of the students behind him onto his jacket, dress shirt and laptop. He had to throw away the shirt, but writing about North Carolina’s biggest regular season game of the year left a more memorable mark.
“That was a huge deal for me as a budding reporter,” Marks said. “It was kind of validation of all the work that I put in in college, and it was kind of like, ‘Alright, you’re about to go out into the world. This is what you want to do? Yeah, this is definitely what I wanted to do.’”
When Hunter Nelson, last year’s DTH sports editor, covered his first rivalry game, it was a big one. We’re talking Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game kind of big. However, like all the former writers and editors before him, he appreciated the moment and took the pressure in stride, even as some of the “Cameron Crazies” read aloud every word he typed onto his document.
It prepared him for the next big rivalry game — a historic Final Four UNC-Duke matchup in 2022 with “generational anticipation.” There was a little more pressure, he said, because he wanted to create something he was proud of.
“What you will remember forever is being in New Orleans covering those games, especially that game,” Nelson said. “I felt the same way [as] the first game I covered in Cameron just because I knew that with all the storylines surrounding that, it was going to be crazy no matter what.”
Marks said most student journalists do not get the opportunity to sit alongside writers from national publications like ESPN and The Associated Press for a high-stakes, high-anticipation rivalry game. But North Carolina and Duke make a point to save good seats for the student reporters from both schools. For many, like Marks, who now works at The Athletic primarily covering the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils, those early opportunities were priceless.
“I don’t know that I would still be doing this,” he said,“or craving being a part of that the way that I am if I hadn’t had that first opportunity when I was at The DTH.”
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