At Least It Will Be Easier Than Grafting a Rabbit’s Eye Onto a Man…

September 15- At a century old, an icon of student journalism faces an identity crisis. 

 

The Columbia Missourian  at the University of Missouri, an extraordinary student newspaper publishing from within the country’s first school of journalism, turned 100 years old yesterday.  Its focus and financial backer for the next 100 are now up in the air.  The school-supported paper has been in the red for years.  Specifically, according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “In the last couple of years, the Missourian has found itself with a $1 million-plus shortfall. The university has covered the tab so far, but now it wants the newspaper to find a better business model to close the gap with options such as reducing the number of days of publication and partnering with another media company.”

 

The first edition of The University Missourian, later renamed The Columbia Missourian, published September 14, 1908.

The first edition of The University Missourian, later renamed The Columbia Missourian, published September 14, 1908.

 

Several outside media companies have expressed interest.  Early plans call for a reduction in printing from six days each week to five.  Another idea that has been reported is a more centralized distribution focused specifically on campus, enabling the print run to more than double but eroding the newspaper’s community reach.

 

There is some worry this might be the beginning of the end for the paper’s top-tier status.  One alum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter, said: “The journalism school is the crown jewel of the University of Missouri and they are threatening to smash it.  The more they scale back, the closer they come to being a mediocre campus rag you find at every college around the country.”  The paper’s general manager said changes are needed to ensure “[w]e’ll be here 100 years from now.”

 

Again, the only problem I have with related coverage is the attempt by the press to use the Missourian situation as a microcosm for the larger j-industry’s woes.  It is not.  The paper has always been distinct among college newspapers, as a lab paper of supreme excellence very purposefully serving both campus and surrounding community and operating at a loss for years.  As several reports note, a move to strictly campus distribution should actually increase ad revenue.  If anything then, the newspaper’s plight and part of the proposed solution are testaments to the strength of the student press, not any supposed weaknesses. 

 

Separately, in its recent feature, The Post-Dispatch briefly outlined the paper’s history and legacy, including mention of content in its first issue that made me laugh out loud: “That first issue . . . included stories about a woman who was suing a farmer for breaking an engagement and about a surgery to graft a rabbit’s eye onto a man.”  Ouch.  I am sure that whatever happens with the paper in its second century, it surely will be less painful than the latter. Best of luck to all involved at MU.

Comments
One Response to “At Least It Will Be Easier Than Grafting a Rabbit’s Eye Onto a Man…”
Trackbacks
Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] As I have previously blogged about, my favorite inane bit of Missouri j-school trivia is the contents featured in the first issue of The University Missourian student newspaper (now The Columbia Missourian). As The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently reported, “That first issue . . . included stories about a woman who was suing a farmer for breaking an engagement and about a surgery to graft a rabbit’s eye onto a man.”  Ouch. […]