Origins: Editors lay foundation for campus news outlet
The first issue of the DT, then called The Daily Southern Californian, was published Sept. 16, 1912, after W.R. âRalphâ 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 schoolâs and cityâs 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 â the first interview granted after Nixonâs resignation from public office. And when Los Angeles was rocked by riots in 1992, the DTÂ reported in the midst of the events that took place so close to campus.
In 1915, the newspaper dropped âdailyâ 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 DTÂ began to look more extensively beyond campus for news.
Professor Joe Saltzman, DTÂ editor in chief from 1960 to 1961, recalled the DTÂ 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.
âWe 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,â 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 DTÂ Editor in Chief Cecil Carle because of the storyâs headline: âFDR Receives Drive-In Degree.â
Carle later told Roosevelt about the debacle when he was working on the presidentâs White House press staff. According to Carle, Roosevelt found the incident amusing and kept a framed copy of the article on his wall.
Roosevelt wasnât the only president to be featured in the paper: Richard Nixon, in April 1975, granted former Editor in Chief Kari Granville an interview.
âHe was sweating,â 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 DTÂ 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.
âThis was their means of communicating with students, how exams would be made up, whatever,â Cravens said. âSo it was extremely critical that there be a Daily Trojan to communicate that.â
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.
âYou just do what you can. We would have put a paper out that day if we had to go somewhere else to typeset,â Cravens said. âWe would have found a way.â
A function of the bigger format of the early DTÂ newspapers, as well as the journalism industry at that time, was that the DTÂ was often taken much more seriously.
âThe power of the college newspaper in the late 1950s and 1960s was far greater than it is today,â Saltzman said.
In recent years, the paper has shifted to a smaller format. USC Archivist Claude Zachary said this has come at a cost.
âThe thing that Iâve noticed, [which] I guess is just indicative of budgetary concerns or whatever, is the older Daily Trojans back in the â30s, â40s, â50s, â60s seem to have a lot more news,â Zachary said. âIt was bigger format for one thing.â
Though the paper has gone through many changes over the years, Zachary said the original purpose of the DTÂ has remained the same.
âItâs 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,â Zachary said.
Saltzman said, during his tenure, staff members were very conscious of the paperâs history.
âThe 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,â Saltzman said.