Throwback Thursday: UT continues 100-year tradition of daily news coverage despite uncertain future

Brett Donohoe

While many people may take the presence of a daily paper as a given, UT students 100 years ago were not so lucky. Back in 1914, a new paper hit the stands of UT titled The Daily Texan. 

The UT newspaper entity had existed since 1900, but the paper was only biweekly, publishing wide-sheet, four-page prints on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Today, The Daily Texan fights to maintain this 100-year tradition of daily printing.

UT followed the pattern of Kansas University in Lawrence when it transitioned the daily paper all those years ago. On March 1, 1913, the editorial board of the Texan published a how-to letter on the logistics of a daily paper, arguing that “Kansas University [was] only a little larger than Texas.” 

When Kansas University premiered its daily paper, nearly every faculty member became a subscriber, and the number of student readers increased dramatically. In a letter from Kansas, the costs of producing a daily paper were broken down, with advertising and subscriptions covering the total cost.

The Texan received its first published comment on the plan to make a daily paper a month and a half after its announcement. In mid-April, a man wrote to the Texan in the “Firing Lines” section to express the absolute importance of UT creating a daily digest, saying that refusing to do so would “soon be impossible” with the University’s population growth. The writer said “the financial side of the matter could be fixed up all right.” 

When UT premiered its daily paper in September 1914, enthusiasm and revenue were not an issue. The Daily Texan reported in its inaugural issue that “at least twenty [sic] new men” were eagerly awaiting their first assignment, and “the wide-awake business men of Austin [were] pleased with The Daily Texan as an advertising medium.” 

The paper that began nearly 100 years ago was truer to its name than today’s paper. The Daily Texan in 1914 printed almost every day, including weekends, with the exception of Mondays. 

The newspaper industry has changed much since 1914. Today, the paper prints on all weekdays, but that future is in jeopardy because of falling advertising revenue. The Internet makes news available to one’s fingertips, and national advertisers are withdrawing their ads from the paper, contributing to fluctuating page counts and an uncertain future for a bevy of news organizations.

The Texas Student Media Board of Trustees, the entity that oversees The Daily Texan, decided in March to keep the newspaper daily for the time being. But the conversation continues as the paper seeks to move forward as a profit-making organization. In response to keeping the paper daily, funds for student staff and student managers were halved for this year’s cycle. Despite these cutbacks, The Daily Texan attracted nearly 300 student applications this fall, showing that the paper is still held in high regard as a media outlet. 

The 1914 editorial that christened the new daily paper expressed the wish to establish itself and remain an important organization on campus: “As we grow in size [sic] we hope to grow in usefulness.” 

With coverage of important campus events that may be elided over in city-wide news outlets, The Daily Texan continues to strive to remain true to this promise.