First Amendment – A look back on the Daily’s history

The press is the only trade or business specifically named in the First Amendment.

The Minnesota Daily has had an evolving relationship with the opening amendment for 108 years – half the Bill of Rights’ lifespan.

The Daily began in 1900, housed in Old Main, as a one-page, four-column campus news source.

The early days

One of the earliest times when the Daily’s First Amendment rights were tested was during World War I.

Daily archives show the paper’s support of wartime policies instituted by then-University president Marion LeRoy Burton, as they failed to challenge University administration during this period.

The Daily’s newsroom at the time was led by managing editor Clinton Boo, a student leader with ties to the military.

According to a Daily article published during the paper’s centennial celebration series, “the Daily did not print a single article or editorial in opposition to national and University wartime policy” during Boo’s tenure as editor.

The Daily also has a long history of being independent of the University administration.

Currently, the Daily’s annual operating budget is about $2.6 million, with less than a quarter of the yearly revenue coming from the University.

In 1923, facing financial hardship, the Daily temporarily closed its doors and attempted to raise its subscription rates.

It eventually reached an agreement with the University, exchanging a mandatory student fee for publishing of the University’s Official Daily Bulletin.

With the agreement came stronger ties to the University administration, and the formation of the Board of Student Publications, which among other things, supervised choosing of the following year’s leadership.

Cold War era

The Daily’s First Amendment rights were challenged again in the mid-1950s when then-editor Dean Schoelkopf traveled to the Soviet Union with other colleges’ newspaper editors.

The Daily acknowledged that as a condition of Schoelkopf’s travel, the Russian government had reserved the right to review and edit his copy.

“Schoelkopf’s first sentence was to be followed by periods if Russian censors demanded to see the letter,” the editors wrote with Schoelkopf’s second article. “Two periods did follow the sentence.”

When students and faculty were persecuted by the University administration on charges of Communist ties, the Daily provided coverage of the witch hunts.

The Daily also publically denounced anti-communist legislations, such as the McCarran Act and loyalty oaths, in the editorial section.

As students challenged the University and exercised their First Amendment rights in the 1960s, the Daily continued as a leader in First Amendment rights.

Marshall Tanick was a member of the Daily staff during the late 1960s who legally represented the Daily throughout the ’80s and early ’90s.

Tanick said during his days at the Daily in the late ’60s, students had been protesting outside Vincent Hall about materials that the English department had banned.

The Daily photographed one of the students “carrying a sign that said, ‘F— the Puritans’ ” (expletive deleted) and the photo ran on the front page.

The staff “caught a lot of heck for that,” Tanick said.

The outgoing senior staff members in 1979 had put together the Daily’s annual humor issue, more or less in secret, when then-editor Kate Stanley took over.

“Its humor was on the edge,” she said. “It included an interview with Jesus Christ, complete with a 150-point headline reading, ‘Christ Speaks!’ “

Stanley said on her first day in the office as editor, she was welcomed by “a picket line of blue-haired ladies,” who, along with others, were demanding that “the Daily be shut down or thrown off campus.”

A yearlong inquiry from the regents and Legislature followed, and the Daily ultimately lost part of its funding when the regents voted to make the Daily subscription fee optional to students.

The paper filed suit against then-University president, C. Peter Magrath.

“We had a newspaper to run, a newspaper to put out every day, and we found ourselves forced to be politicians,” Stanley said.

The Daily initially lost in federal district court, but the ruling was overturned in the 8th Circuit.

“It’s charming to imagine that the Daily’s constitutional rights would simply assert themselves without help from the Daily,” Stanley said.

Tanick said that for its time, the lawsuit was looked to by other college papers as a landmark case, but added that in today’s legal environment the Daily might not have received the same ruling.

Modern Daily

The Daily faced First Amendment troubles once again in 1995 when a Daily photographer captured a fight between anti-racism rallyers on campus and an alleged Nazi supporter.

The Daily later received a subpoena for the testimony of a reporter who had witnessed the fight, as well as the photo negatives that had not been published, then-editor Michele Ames said.

Ames said after more than a year fighting the subpoena, she decided to end the fight and “take whatever punishment” the court would decide.

The courts cited Ames with civil contempt for refusing to produce the negatives, which they believed might have included evidence, she said, and the paper was fined $250 per day for the duration of the assault trial.

“The Daily has a long and proud history of protecting the First Amendment,” she said. “It’s a history that I really was quite honored to be a part of.”

Gregg Aamot took over as editor-in-chief the year following Ames’ stand against the law.

Aamot said despite those prior events, he felt the administration treated the Daily fairly.

During Aamot’s year as editor, the University began searching for a new president.

The proceedings were mostly held in secret, an issue the Daily took umbrage with at the time.

Aamot’s fight wasn’t the first time the Daily challenged the presidential selection process, and it wouldn’t be the last, Mark Anfinson, current legal counsel to the Daily, said.

The paper fought again in 2002, when the regents began searching for the current president, to replace then-president Mark Yudof.

The Daily, along with four other local media organizations, sued the Board of Regents for closing the presidential search.

The University argued it was exempt from state laws because the board had been created by a territorial government before Minnesota gained statehood, Anfinson said.

The argument wasn’t purely a First Amendment issue, he said, but the regents’ failure to comply with the Data Practices Act and the Open Meetings Law threatened the Daily’s ability to independently and accurately cover the University administration.

The Daily has continued to uphold the First Amendment in small ways.

2005-06 editor Britt Johnsen said she and Anfinson fought a bill in the Legislature that would make the University president search even more secretive, and won when the bill was dissolved.

Johnsen said she also fought against the University police when they requested photos of a bike theft.

“It’s regularly exercising your rights when issues arise,” she said. “You just do the right thing.”

Each time First Amendment or other critical decisions came up, Johnsen said she discussed them with her staff.

“Sure, we didn’t necessarily have years of First Amendment training,” Johnsen said. “We reached out to people who did know, and then we would talk about it.”

Emma Carew is a senior staff reporter.