The Students Behind That ‘Clusterfuck’ Headline Want You to Focus on Literally Anything Else
The college editors say they’re still waiting on answers from the University of North Carolina
It’s been a busy few days for journalists at The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At the start of last week, Opinion Editor Paige Masten yelled across the newsroom to ask whether it was all right to use the word “clusterfuck” in a print headline describing the university’s pandemic response.
“Go for it,” Anna Pogarcic, editor-in-chief, yelled back. “Print news, raise hell.” The next day, the newspaper front page read: “UNC has a clusterfuck on its hands.”
The student journalists at the paper had been covering the university’s rocky re-opening plan for months, and they even broke the initial story exposing the clusters of positive Covid cases on campus. Ever since the editorial ran, The Daily Tar Heel’s work has gone viral, drawing attention from the National Press Club and Anderson Cooper.
Masten and Pogarcic caught up with GEN this week to talk about the weird fixation with their headline, the next steps in their reporting, and how The Daily Tar Heel hopes to diversify.
GEN: So tell me about your decision to run with the clusterfuck headline and everything that led up to that moment?
Paige Masten: I started planning the editorial on Friday when we found out about the first two Covid-19 clusters on campus. I just knew it was something we’re going to have to report on and people were going to be frustrated and angry. We’re all students. So we are feeling the very same things and we’re affected by the news as well.
The headline was such a good play on words because the university was calling it a “cluster” and it was such a terribly handled situation, which is what clusterfuck means. I feel like they were just kind of asking for it. And it was too perfect not to run with.
Anna Pogarcic: Media ethics people are asking about what kind of debate happened in the newsroom for this. There wasn’t. It really was just that Paige had a great idea with that wording and the headline. I was like…