Every semester at The Daily Orange, at least in recent years, has begun with a retelling of what brought the staff to a house on Ostrom with a red door, and a knoll out front. This is the story each staff member receives. An Informal History of a College Newspaper Originally published Friday, October 13, 1978
Early one September morning as classes were starting, a tired student made his way to the Old Oval carrying 500 Daily Oranges. Irving Templeton had just spent 25 hours handsetting the type for the first issue that appeared September 15, 1903.
"Today students are given the first issue of a daily college paper devoted to their interest and to the growth of Syracuse," the opening editorial read. The small four-page tabloid carried the first cartoon run in a college newspaper. (See page 31.) It cost students $2.50 to subscribe for issues appearing Tuesday through Saturday. The paper soon took its first quarters near campus in the "red barn" at 806 Croton Ave. that was part of the Captain Raynor's Civil War era estate. Today, Sadler and Lawrinson dorms occupy the site.
The DO quickly realized one of its objectives with the opening of the Orange Publishing Corporation — one of the first student-owned and -operated printshops in the country. The company was founded with a capital investment of $1,200. During the next two and a half years, the publishing corporation kept the DO out of debt with its other printing jobs. The Orange did so well that in 1908 it built a permanent two-story building opposite the steps of Archbold stadium. (See picture on page 31.)
Unfortunately, the building's cost of $15,000 was too much for the young printing company. Mrs. Benjamin Copeland relieved the DO's embarrassment by picking up the building's cost. It was just a first hint of the financial problems to come. The DO existed on advertising and voluntary student subscription. It used a great deal of space pleading for subscriptions. By 1912, the DO was several thousand dollars short and only had the support of 700 students out of a total population of 3,000.
At the end of the 1913 school year, the Athletic Governing Board saved the paper from folding. (See page 14.) The board realized the importance of the DO's sports coverage in raising school spirit. The DO even provided a play-by-play telegraph account of the away football games to assembled fans in HL. It was a short marriage. Every issue of the paper continued to lose money. Subscription drives repeatedly failed.
In 1918, the governing board gave up the DO. In 1921, the DO dramatically printed its front-page obituary and closed its doors. The subscription drive had only raised 1,400 out of the 2,000 needed. No papers were issued for one week. The Senior Council and the DO decided to ask students to vote on a regular $2.50 subscription tax to be levied on all students. It passed by a 7 to 1 majority and the DO proudly announced that it was "safe for posterity."
It took two world wars to get women in positions of responsibility on the DO. World War I and the great Spanish flu epidemic left women in charge, but, it was not until just prior to WWII that a woman was named editor in chief. (See page 38.) The women's staff had been abolished in 1933.
Everyone always remembers the excitement surrounding "scoops" and the extra editions. The DO's first extra was issued in 1904, when a Carnegie donation for the library was announced. On January 11, 1937, the DO beat out the downtown papers with its extra on the Lyman fire. Eyewitness accounts filled the front page. In 1938 when the Orange beat Colgate for the first time in 14 years, the DO issued an extra with a press run of 30,000 copies to be mailed to alumni all over the world. "As the goal posts came splintering down, a small staff raced across the street to the Orange Pub. Co. Everything was set but the lead story.
With the end of WWII, thousands of vets swelled enrollment at SU. "Even the DO got a shot in the arm," recalls Bill Edson. "It became quite a sheet in those days staffed with writers and editors of a hundred service publications and civilian papers; the veterans of Stars and Stripes, the Mid-Pacifican and Yank. (The DO) pasted the Veterans Administration when the almighty checks were late, it told off the city council about the lack of traffic safety measures at Hill intersections, and it brought the Board of Health down on Marshall Street restaurants."
The DO celebrated "50 Fabulous Years" in 1953 with the largest DO of that time, a 44-page broadsheet. The DO's broadsheet was wider than the standard New York Times' size. The year before the DO had "burst" upon the national political scene during the 1952 presidential elections by nominating Pogo, the possum prophet, to be the 34th president. Walt Kelly's Pogo was the most popular cartoon of the year. Kelly flipped his character's misshapen beaver hat into the ring. The paper was caught in the swirl of dust that resulted. After receiving a "simple 3 cent letter" from the amazing Mr. Kelly, the DO broke out in a banner headline on May 1, 1952, "Daily Orange Supports Pogo for President." A front-page editorial announced the paper's stand.
The next day 5,000 students greeted Walt Kelly in Archbold Stadium. "I go Pogo" buttons were everywhere, including the "We want Pogo dance." Kelly supplied the DO with a set of 52 weather ears to run near the flag every day. (See page 65.) When the staff was unsure about the weather Pogo predicted, "possible rainbows."
At the time the DO worked out of a pre-fab, on the Yates Castle grounds. In 1953 the CIvil War era castle was ordered demolished by the university to make way for the med school. The DO was forced to move. The journalism school was a much more informal and smaller school. The Kids' and Dean Clark and the publication's board picked the editor in chief who ruled over the staff of close to a hundred editors and junior editors. Duties were closely linked to class ranking and there were frequent tryouts even for the reporter positions. The paper also had an adviser, who for many years was also the director of public relations for the university.
During the '50s the DO won All-American ratings — the highest — from the Associated Collegiate Press Association. In 1977 the paper received the award as well as being a medalist in the Columbia Journalism Association.
In 1954 the DO was the victim of an elaborate and well-executed prank. The Cornell Daily Sun made up a phony DO and distributed it at SU in the place of that day's DO. Dick Schapp, who now does sports for NBC-TV news in New York, recalled the incident: "It was a very elaborate thing. If we put as much work into that thing as our school work we'd all be Phi Beta Kappas." "We gave the linotypers a bottle of scotch and a deck of cards" not to print the regular DO, Schapp said. As insurance they brought along the wrestling team.
When the paper came out, Schapp and his Cornell Sun staff stayed to watch: "Everyone just figured it was another bad issue of the DO," he said. The lead stories were about the football team being suspended from the NCAA and drinking being allowed on campus." After 24 years, the DO has yet to repay the Cornell Daily Sun or its generosity.
After the '50s, collegiate journalism became more serious. Toward the end of the '60s the changes in the world outside could no longer be ignored and there was an urgent seriousness with college students. The DO reported it, and sometimes instigated it.
For the first time there was a radical change in how the DO saw its role on campus. For years the DO saw itself as something of a choreographer of a long dance line; it was important everyone have spirit and no one be out of line. From the earliest issues the DO promoted college sings and criticized students when attendance at football rallies was low. Each new building was given great fanfare and cited as evidence that SU was on the way to being a "first-rate institution."
Sports was the rallying point and it was always on the front page. Only in 1928 with the creation of the sports editor was it recognized as being something other than news. Like a choreographer, the DO attacked anything that would hinder a good performance. There were always causes. In the first year, 1903, the DO succeeded in getting library hours extended. In the late '30s the DO pleaded with students to care about the neutrality issue. In the '50s they campaigned for safe driving and maintaining academic freedom during the red scare. Good service, housing and the lack of a student union have been perennial topics.
In the late '60s the skirmishes over campus issues became border wars over issues that were dividing the country. It was an "us and them" mentality. Choreography was out in an era of "do your own thing." The student strike of the 1969 school year brought it all to a conclusion and left the DO independent of the university. Sam Hemmingway, after being chosen by the Board of Publications, said he wanted to make the DO "not radical, but very activist." In the student strike of that spring when the school was shut down the DO became a central actor. As Hemmingway recalled: "We knew we were risking the paper by our strong support of last spring's strike. But we had to be honest we were on strike too.
During those two weeks the staff got very close to each other. We printed 10 issues in 11 days, and that meant most of us had to practically live in the DO office 24 hours a day." As a result of the DO's support of the strike, the administration took away the Summer DO and declined to back up the DO when it was sued for libel. The libel suit had been the last straw. The administration refused to defend the paper, despite its obligation to the constitution of the Board of Publications.
The administration's next move was to elect Larry Kramer editor of the DO. At the same time, the DO countered and elected its own editor, Paula Fabian, through the newly established Student Board of Publications. In a front-page editorial, the DO called Kramer a pawn of the central administration who were trying to take over the paper. "If we have to we'll physically stop the administration from installing a editor the students have not elected. Students pay $45,000 for the DO, not the administration." Hemmingway said. The students' selection ultimately prevailed when a mediation board picked Fabian over Kramer. The DO and the lawyer settled the case out of court.
The following fall SA voted to consolidate the three papers on campus into one to save money. The Promethean, Dialog and the DO were joined together in 1971 to create a new publication — The DO. (See page 62.) Today, in the DO's 8th year of independence, the times are less turbulent. Whether it was in 1903 or during WWII or the student strikes, the DO has also always sought "to unify the interests of all Syracuse colleges," just as Irving Templeton wrote in the first issue.
The interpretations have varied, but it has always been a goal. That is the way the DO has been for 75 years, since September 15, 1903, when the first issue was delivered on campus. It was the same year the Ford Motor company was founded and the Wright Brothers flew for a few seconds over Kitty Hawk. Planes may be supersonic, and cars may be the backbone of our economy, but the DO has remained the same: always an organized chaos of energy that produces a daily paper, always coming before classes. To steal some words from Paul Simon, the DO is "still crazy after all these years."