The Daily Campus familiar to today’s generation of SMU students has been around for little more than 20 years.
True, there has some form of SMU student newspaper with the word “Campus” in the name since 1915, but it was not until the incoming editor for 1966-67 requested a 50 percent “cap” on advertising in The Semi-Weekly Campus–a tabloid paper–to allow for more news that the journalism professor on the SMU Students’ Publishing Board at the time, E. L. Callihan, suggested the paper be expanded to three or four times a week. The Board acted that fall to authorize three times a week “at the discretion of the editor and business manager” and the additional day was added to the publication schedule almost immediately. The paper now came out Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
No more than a year later, the Board authorized four times a week, provided the paper received an increase of $1 per student in funding from the student activities fee and management was able to work out satisfactory financial and printing arrangements. The paper quickly became a four times a week product in Fall 1967. It subsequently changed its name to The Daily Campus in Fall 1969, and switched from a tabloid to broadsheet format 15 years later, in 1984, probably to accommodate the newspaper industry’s move to a new uniform method of measuring advertising called standard advertising units (SAU). Since 1984, there have been numerous cosmetic changes–new flags, new typefaces, new layout and design, more color, a narrower page width, new features–but the basic product published Tuesday through Friday has remained the same. Martin Reese, who was professional business manager of the SMU Publishing Company in 1967, calls the change to daily publication a “highlight” of his 19-year tenure and pays tribute to then-Editor Judy Bell for the success of the change-over. “She was an excellent editor,” he says simply.
SMU’s student newspaper began in the first year of classes in 1915 as “The S.M.U. Times.” However, those involved thought the name too commercial for a college publication and changed it later that first year to “The Campus.” The paper stayed “The Campus” until the mid-20s when publishing twice a week prompted a switch to “The Semi-Weekly Campus.” The name changed back and forth between “The Semi-Weekly Campus,” “The Campus” and “The SMU Campus” until 1969.
The paper’s reputation for assertive news and editorial page policies can be traced back to the beginning, as well. On its page in the 1930 edition of Rotunda, The Semi-Weekly Campus authorized the following: “It has been the policy of the reportorial staff to bring to the student body any important and timely event in the University. The editorial staff presents an unbiased opinion of University problems as they affect S. M. U. It supports those enterprises which it deems worthy, and discourages any unfavorable movement.” Some 47 years later, in 1977, in the same publication: “It is the task of The Daily Campus to assist students in discovering and understanding these continual changes [on campus], and to do it such a way as to avoid where possible, the easy uncomplicated explanations, the immediate, obvious answers, the unqualified, categorical interpretations.”
Throughout its 90 years, the paper has chosen to tell it like it is, especially in the student protest era of the late 60s and 70s, which overlapped the tenures of professional Company managers Reese and Charles A. Reynolds, both of whom were interviewed by Michael Leftwich for a 60th Anniversary commemorative issue in 1990.
Reese told Leftwich relations with the administration were strained during the period, largely because of the protest movement and the attitude of a couple of editors. “One or two were far out and said nothing done here was any good. They believed that our chief role was to blast the administration whether we had grounds for it or not,” Reese said. He said the paper frequently contained profanity, which upset many readers, but administrators never asked him to interfere because of President Willis Tate’s devotion to free speech and an independent press.
As the 60s turned into the 70s, in the middle of the controversy, Reese made a decision to leave the position and, in searching for a replacement, the publishing board chose to establish a fulltime position of director of student publications with a greater adviser role.
Reynolds, who came to SMU after three years as director of student publications at the University of Kentucky, acknowledged he took the job at a controversial time. In his interview with Leftwich, he noted that “there were a lot more issues that concerned higher education,” adding, “I feel like the news got more relevant to academic and political issues.”
One of them, he said, was the paper’s tough investigative stories on the athletic department, which Leftwich reported ran a large deficit in 1974. ”Athletics weren’t popular at many schools at that time,” Reynolds told Leftwich. “There was a belief that the money spent on sports could be better used by universities.” In the interview, Reynolds said the DC ran stories and photos about housing the football team in a hotel the night before home football games, which prompted what he called “rah rah groups” to complain at an anti-paper rally.
The problem with profanity persisted and eventually the University and the paper were able to reach a compromise. The paper would not use profanity in columns merely for “shock value” but would retain the right to quote such language if used in a news context.
Similar dust-ups with the Universit
y and student groups would occur over the years since, among them a successful but short-lived effort to open up judicial hearings in the early 80s, cancellation of the Student Association’s bulk subscription to The Daily Campus in 1988 (it stuck), a brouhaha over whether a Daily Campus staff member is subject to judicial proceeding if he or she violates the Code of Conduct while acting in an official capacity (the answer was no), and a boycott of Daily Campus advertising by the Greek community following publication of what was perceived to be a negative story and graphic Thursday before Homecoming 2001 (Greek linage has not returned to pre-boycott levels).
The paper’s readership numbers among students and faculty and staff is high. According to the last professional market/readership survey in Fall 2000, 89 percent of undergraduate students reported that fall they read The DC at least once a week. That figure drops to 48.5 percent for busy graduate students, and climbs back to 68.1 percent for faculty and staff. According to 2004 statistics, the latest available, the number of unique visitors to the paper’s online Web site, smudailycampus.com, increased some 39 percent from a year earlier. The Daily Campus began putting the printed edition online in January 1996.
‘Worth every minute of it’
Publishing a daily newspaper–even four days a week–is an awesome but satisfying task for students planning journalism as a career as well as others interested, and the “blurb” for the DC page in Rotunda each year has a similarity to them. This from the 1983 yearbook: ”Once again, another year at The Daily Campus (your student newspaper?), affectionately known as The Daily Compost, or occasionally, The Daily Communist. None of us can say that it hasn’t been interesting. Eventful. Tiring. Demanding. Frustrating, Depressing. Busy. And worth every minute of it.”
Even when required to re-dummy the paper in the spring of 1995 as Spring Editor Chad Watt did after being confronted with the news that the courier carrying the newspaper’s completed “flats” to the printer 80 miles away in Denison, TX allegedly had been kidnapped, along with the flats. A smaller, four-page paper was in the stands by 4 p.m. that day.
Editors are chosen by the Student Media Company, Inc. Board of Directors on the basis of written application and interview for each semester. Incumbents are allowed to apply for re-appointment, but only 15 students have served two semesters in the 38 years the paper has been a daily. There are no course requirements, but there is a minimum grade point average required for selection.
The news-editorial staff has the help of a professional editorial adviser (currently the Company’s executive director), one of four professionals on the Student Media Company staff. The others are an associate director/business manager, who supervises professional managers in advertising and production. News-editorial content of both The DC and Rotunda is the sole responsibility of the respective editors, who may request advice and counsel from the editorial adviser, who also does a daily post-publication critique and, among other responsibilities, helps develop the news-editorial handbook and plan training.
Members of the news-editorial staff also frequently consult members of journalism faculty, from whom many staffers are taking courses or with whom they have developed a working relationship during their college careers.
Faculty who teach reporting, writing and editing often give students in their classes an opportunity to earn extra credit for writing for publication, often The DC or Rotunda yearbook. An independent study course involving work in the DC newsroom under the general supervision of faculty member Carolyn Barta did not make this fall.
The only formal relationship between Company and journalism involves sharing the cost of text, photo and graphic services from The Associated Press. The other three professionals on the Company staff supervise student staffs to carry out the functions of their respective areas, without which the news-editorial staff– often considered erroneously as “the paper”–could not function, according to Richard Lytle, the current executive director/editorial adviser. “Each is co-dependent.”
With the advent of computer technology, the relationship between news-editorial and production has changed from the days when production put pages together. The news-editorial staff does that now, counting on production to “tweak” the pages and forward them electronically to the contract printer, which currently is Midway Press, Ltd., located in Dallas. Production now focuses on design and creation of advertising and on the web site.
The Daily Campus receives revenue from the sale of advertising and subscriptions and, as part of an integrated Student Media Company, Inc. budget, receives support from other media operating units or the Company’s reserves when projected revenues fall short of target, Lytle said.