The first issue of the DT, then called The Daily Southern Californian, was published Sept. 16, 1912, after W.R. “Ralph” La Porte, the first student editor of the paper, persuaded university President George Finley Bovard to give USC a student newspaper. Subscriptions to the paper originally cost $1.75.
Typical articles in the first editions of the paper included announcements of tryouts for the USC rugby team and accounts of the school’s and city’s thriving social scene. But since its inception, the DT has documented history locally and nationally. The paper even landed an exclusive interview with President Richard Nixon — the first interview granted after Nixon’s resignation from public office. And when Los Angeles was rocked by riots in 1992, the DT reported in the midst of the events that took place so close to campus.
In 1915, the newspaper dropped “daily” from its name, after it began publishing only four days a week, until 1925, when it returned to daily production and its title changed to the Daily Trojan.
Soon after switching to a five-day publishing schedule, the DT began to look more extensively beyond campus for news.
Professor Joe Saltzman, DT editor in chief from 1960 to 1961, recalled the DT competing with major newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times for circulation and said it was not uncommon for stories from the USC paper to wind up in larger publications.
“We became minor celebrities and the excitement of seeing your story appear in a major metropolitan newspaper when you were a junior or a senior is one of my favorite memories,” Saltzman said of his time at the DT.
One of these occasions occurred when President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited USC in 1935.
Roosevelt received an honorary doctorate from the university. Crippled by polio, Roosevelt arrived at Bovard Auditorium in an open car and stood on the steps to receive his honorary doctorate. USC President Rufus B. Von KleinSmid was reportedly enraged at DT Editor in Chief Cecil Carle because of the story’s headline: “FDR Receives Drive-In Degree.”
Carle later told Roosevelt about the debacle when he was working on the president’s White House press staff. According to Carle, Roosevelt found the incident amusing and kept a framed copy of the article on his wall.
Roosevelt wasn’t the only president to be featured in the paper: Richard Nixon, in April 1975, granted former Editor in Chief Kari Granville an interview.
“He was sweating,” Granville said of Nixon. When Granville sat down with Nixon after a Board of Trustees meeting, she became the first journalist in the country to interview the president after he stepped down from office.
The DT again played a historic role when the L.A. riots broke out around campus in 1992.
Though the newspaper staff had already finished its regular printing schedule for the semester, the students chose to print a special edition of the paper. Mona Cravens, the director of USC Student Publications, said the newspaper staff members felt obligated to keep their peers informed of the progression of the riots, and how the riots affected USC, as part of their duties as journalists.
“This was their means of communicating with students, how exams would be made up, whatever,” Cravens said. “So it was extremely critical that there be a Daily Trojan to communicate that.”
Two years later, the 1994 Northridge earthquake put the staff in a similar situation. When Cravens unlocked the door of the newsroom, she found the ceiling had collapsed on top of the computers. Fortunately, the system still worked and the students put out a regular edition of the paper.
“You just do what you can. We would have put a paper out that day if we had to go somewhere else to typeset,” Cravens said. “We would have found a way.”
A function of the bigger format of the early DT newspapers, as well as the journalism industry at that time, was that the DT was often taken much more seriously.
“The power of the college newspaper in the late 1950s and 1960s was far greater than it is today,” Saltzman said.
In recent years, the paper has shifted to a smaller format. USC Archivist Claude Zachary said this has come at a cost.
“The thing that I’ve noticed, [which] I guess is just indicative of budgetary concerns or whatever, is the older Daily Trojans back in the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s seem to have a lot more news,” Zachary said. “It was bigger format for one thing.”
Though the paper has gone through many changes over the years, Zachary said the original purpose of the DT has remained the same.
“It’s always been a teaching tool for journalism students as well as [for] presenting news and community service to the student body and the whole Trojan community for that matter,” Zachary said.
Saltzman said, during his tenure, staff members were very conscious of the paper’s history.
“The editors before us had become quite famous in the field, working at some of the best newspapers in the country, and we tried very hard to follow in their footsteps,” Saltzman said.