Editor’s note: This is the third in a 10-part series of stories highlighting each decade of the 20th century and how The Minnesota Daily covered them. The series will appear on Wednesdays leading up to the Daily’s 100th anniversary on May 1, 2000, and culminate with a special edition. We hope you enjoy this trip through time.
“Either you must support the Daily or The Minnesota Daily must go.”
The above January 1920 headline in bold capital letters threatened to stop publication of the University’s paper.
It was not the first time.
From its birth, the Daily frequently ran headlines threatening termination unless students handed over subscription money.
Internally, the Daily struggled to balance conflicting needs — fiscal stability and journalistic freedom — knowing one might not be possible without the other.
Finally on Jan. 26, 1923, the newspaper stopped crying wolf and halted publication for more than two months. The absence of the Daily left post office boxes vacant of campus news and the newspaper staff without work.
Ten days before the publication stopped printing, the Daily chopped its size in half.
George Dworshak, Daily managing editor, wrote, “this is not a souvenir or pocket edition.” He said the Daily would continue to publish the miniature version until 3,000 more students subscribed.
At the time, only 1,100 students, one-tenth of the University student body, paid the annual $2.25 Daily subscription. Meanwhile, advertising, the newspaper’s primary funding source, declined.
The money crunch became unbearable and publication stopped.
Students rallied to bring the Daily back, proposing a compulsory student tax to pay for the publication. They lobbied for the Daily to incorporate the Official Daily Bulletin — news from the administration and faculty — in exchange for cash from the University.
Both proposals finally passed after more than two months of negotiations. While presses rolled again, internal letters and Daily editorials showed conflict.
O.M. Leland, dean of the College of Engineering and Architecture, wrote University President Lotus Coffman suggesting the Daily be “officially connected” to the administration and serve as its propaganda tool when it began to publish again.
Matters opposed to the “best interests” of the University, material of “questionable moral character” and articles criticizing the University would be censured, he said.
He wrote back, “I believe that the students would be unwilling to have the University deduct any part of their deposit fee for the maintenance of a daily newspaper over which they have absolutely no control.”
And though Coffman supported the bulletin proposal, he voiced an additional concern to Leland. He worried the bulletin’s inclusion “might carry with it the assumption that the administration would attempt to control the editorial policies of the Daily.”
In March 1923, students petitioned Coffman and the Board of Regents to combine the bulletin and tax students no more than 50 cents per quarter as a subscription to the Daily. Subscriptions would jump from 1,100 to 10,000.
After regent approval, the Daily resumed publishing April 5, 1923 as did the struggle for journalistic integrity.
Today, the administration’s Official Daily Bulletin runs as a small section on page two.
In 1924, administrators wrote Coffman to change the placement and format of the bulletin in the newspaper, questioning the Daily’s authority.
Less than a year after the Daily shutdown, a group of administrators and faculty submitted a scathing report to Coffman railing against the Daily’s alleged incompetence.
Faculty and administrators managed to garner some control over the Daily through the Board of Student Publications, which formed after publication stopped.
In 1922, students supported the new board because it promised fiscal stability for student publications. However, it also meant students could no longer select the editors and managers of publications. What had been a politically-charged and popular election was reduced to selection by a few student, faculty and administrative board members.
An April 1923 Daily editorial welcomed the board, predicting it would give students a paper “that will survive all of time.” However, it also warned “faculty or centralized control must never be extended so as to hamper the true expressions of student opinion.”
World’s Largest College Daily
Funding transformed the newspaper. Compulsory subscriptions brought stability and dramatically changed the Daily.
The Daily staff grew to 150 and the focus turned towards messages promoting student agendas, including campaigns for the Memorial Stadium and Northrop Auditorium. The Daily led a successful campaign to stop trucks from rumbling through campus, hindering students from hearing lectures.
The paper, which soon dubbed itself “The World’s Largest College Daily,” took on an attitude of abundance and prosperity.
Daily football extras were published for a new revenue source and each new Daily staff competed against the old in the number of pages published per quarter.
This competitive spirit paid off in 1925, when the Daily tied for national recognition as “the best college publication.” That same year, the Daily filed for copyright because other papers stole its stories.
After years of struggle, the newspaper began a new era of growth and stability.