By Shannon Mullane (MJour’19)
When Bob Ewegen thought back to his days as a student journalist at CU Boulder in the 1960s, he remembered students using mail sacks as sleeping pads on the newsroom floor.
A student in the 1980s, Pete Baumgartner recalled working with a “tough-as-nails” editor and taking turns delivering newspapers at 5 a.m.
Anna Haynes, a 2022 graduate, looked back on the sense of community and hard work that took place in a tiny newsroom with a heavily-used couch.
For 2021 graduate Tayler Shaw, student journalism began and ended with the COVID-19 pandemic—Zoom calls included.
Since 1892, student journalists have covered the University of Colorado, holding up a mirror to campus life and helping their community better understand itself.
This year, as the Department of Journalism marks its centennial anniversary, CMCI is celebrating this long legacy of student journalism. Faculty, staff, students and historians have worked together to uncover more information about the history of campus publications. Their research has resurfaced a colorful record of student life and journalistic practice amidst adversity, controversy and the most significant historical events of the 20th and 21st centuries.
For student journalists, working with campus publications is often a way of life—and a training ground for their future careers.
“[Student publications] just give you the very practical experience that you need to be successful,” said Baumgartner (PolSci, Jour’90), who works for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is based in Prague, Czech Republic. “There’s really no substitute for them.”
A Window Into History
As an archivist at Norlin Library, David Hays works in what he calls “the memory business.”
With decades of experience under his belt, Hays knows his way around the maze of letters, newspapers, diaries and other documents in the university’s Rare and Distinctive Collections. It’s the “evidence locker in the court of history,” he likes to say.
When it comes to campus publications, Hays can spout off stories about student coverage—pranks, mishaps and notable stories included—without missing a beat.
“The university has gone through sea changes driven by its rising enrollment, institutional development, administrative growth, and most of all, its campus atmosphere,” Hays said. “Student publications, in all ways, reflected these changes like a mirror.”
There have been many student-focused news sources at CU Boulder over the last 130 years, like club newsletters, broadcast stations, radio programs and faculty-led newspapers. However the long legacy of student newspapers—led by students for students—can be traced back to The Silver and Gold, founded in 1892.
In the early years, the University of Colorado was about the size of a contemporary high school: In 1920, there were about 2,000 students on campus; in the 1940s, about 4,000. Student journalists wrote short, to-the-point articles focused primarily on campus events. The Silver and Gold included columns on every college and inclusive coverage of student, faculty and administrative activities across campus, Hays said.
When veterans returned from World War II, the university community increased its focus on international events. Student publications followed suit, often incorporating campus connections to international news into their formerly hyper-local coverage.
“The whole temperature of campus shifted to internationalism,” Hays said. “There’s nothing like seeing the world from a foxhole to make you an internationalist.”
In the second half of the 20th century, student coverage frequently included more editorializing. As the university population grew past 15,000 students, the publications could not cover all of campus in as much detail, he said.
The newspaper archives, Hays said, are full of examples of student activism, levity and controversy.
He found articles about the antics of student political groups in the 1920s and 1930s—like egging fraternity houses and cross-dressing to sneak into sorority chapter meetings during election season.
When the Ku Klux Klan was at its most powerful in Colorado in the 1920s, The Silver and Gold—a historically liberal paper—spoke against it. In the 1930s, student journalists covered campus efforts to demand the state speak out against antisemitic German policies. They covered faculty members who joined the war effort during World War II and published editorials against the incarceration of Japanese Americans.
As racial segregation intensified in Boulder restaurants, businesses and housing policies, The Silver and Gold staff covered their peers as they pushed for desegregation and racial justice. Yet in 1942, the newspaper was criticized for accepting advertisements from those same businesses.
In 1953, The Silver and Gold was replaced by the Colorado Daily. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, student journalists wrote about the civil rights movement nationally and locally, covering Black, Native American, Asian American and Chicano activism on and off-campus.
In 1961, David Biggers, a Black CU student and Navy veteran, joined Freedom Riders in the South and was arrested. He sent copy to the Colorado Daily about his time in jail in Montgomery, Alabama, Hays said.
In 1962, an opinion piece in the Colorado Daily criticized presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, calling him “a murderer, no better than the common criminal” during a discussion of American politics.
“The governor and everybody else took it to CU for that,” Hays said. “The editor and editorial writer were fired by the CU President Newton, despite their being cleared by the editorial board and the faculty senate.”
Even as student publications tackled current events and weathered controversies, they remained an important resource for professional training, maintaining university transparency and offering commentary about local events.
For Hays, the student coverage also provided an irreplaceable window into the university’s history.
“It’s all reflected in the newspaper. That’s where I found all this out,” Hays said.
Sleeping on Mail Sacks
For Bob Ewegen (Jour’68), working at the Colorado Daily wasn’t as much of a student activity as it was a way of life.
“I didn't honestly go to CU so much as I went to The Daily. I learned my trade there,” said Ewegen, who worked as a reporter, news editor, gadfly editor and editor-in-chief of the publication.
Some of his biggest articles and editorials revolved around student activism, like the successful battles to end a women-only curfew on campus and to ensure greater disability access for campus buildings during the Vietnam War, he recalled.
“[Student journalism] is somewhere between a coming-of-age ceremony and a holy crusade,” Ewegen said.
He even played a part in a classic CU Boulder tale that made national headlines: the renaming of the campus grill after Alferd Packer, aka “The Colorado Cannibal.” Ewegen, who was working at the United Press International’s Denver bureau, slipped the story onto the news wires.
The story spread quickly, offering the nation an opportunity to laugh during the tumult of 1968—the year of the Tet Offensive, My Lai massacre, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.
Ewegen had a 41-year career in professional journalism. Looking back, he treasured his time at the student publication: It was his best opportunity to learn through mistakes in an industry that doesn’t accept any.
“You never learn a damn thing through success. It’s failures that drive successes along,” Ewegen said
The Red Pen
Pete Baumgartner started his studies at CU Boulder in the business school. After one year, he switched to journalism and never looked back.
Baumgartner quickly joined the student newsroom as a reporter at a new campus publication, The Campus Press. The Press formed about 10 years after the Colorado Daily left campus in 1970 and became a community newspaper. Students produced The Campus Press as part of a journalism course, publishing new editions twice a week and filling the gap left by The Daily.
At The Campus Press, Baumgartner focused his attention primarily on sports stories and became the sports editor in 1990. He still remembers writing about Sal Aunese, the quarterback of the football team who was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
“He died about halfway through the season. But they had an incredible year—they went to the Orange Bowl—and they always were saying it was for Sal,” Baumgartner said. “It was so very emotional, and everyone was always pulling for Sal. I was writing all the stories about how he was doing and whether he was going to get better or not.”
Students working on The Campus Press dealt with tight, unshiftable print deadlines. And if they made a mistake, it lived on in the newspaper edition. No one could hop into online stories and update a typo, he said.
After the newspaper was published, the faculty advisor Don Ridgway would mark up stories in a red pen—in front of the entire class. It was tough to see your stories covered in red, but the advisor taught students how to write and get the facts straight, Baumgartner said.
“The Campus Press allowed me to show my skills and assured me that I have a future in that profession,” said Baumgartner, who worked for the Rocky Mountain News and Longmont Daily-Times Call before moving to Europe. “It’s really just so incredibly valuable to have things like that [student news outlets] at a university.”
"I have learned that the best journalism begins at the intersection of evidence and instinct. As a journalist, I report for weeks—sometimes months—on a story, compiling interviews and research so I understand the topic thoroughly. Then once I've absorbed what I learned and feel like I have a complete understanding, I switch to my more creative, instinctual right brain and sit down to write.
Linda Villarosa (Jour’81)
Journalism educator and contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine
"Every story is a building process. So is your career. Starting out might seem intimidating because it is intimidating. But the more you learn and report and write, the better the story will be. Same with your career. The more stories you report and the more years of experience you gain, the more you branch out, grow and establish yourself.
Brent Schrotenboer (Jour’96)
Sports investigative journalist at USA Today
In 2009, The Campus Press changed its name to the CU Independent, a step toward independence for the student-led publication.
Along with its name, the newspaper’s operation changed. It would no longer operate within a course setting: Student editors intended to become “a solely independent product” and planned to move off campus, according to a fall 2008 memo from the editors to journalism faculty. Still, they continued to receive some funding from the journalism school, as well as staff support and office space for the next decade.
In 2018, Anna Haynes (PolSci;Jour’22) jumped into reporting in her first week of college. She joined the CU Independent as a staff writer, and in early 2019, she began to take on editing roles, ultimately becoming the paper’s editor-in-chief in May 2020.
“I’ve definitely made a lot of my closest friends at the CU Independent,” Haynes said. “We felt very connected through [our newsroom], through just the mutual struggle of being student reporters and wanting to get into the journalism field, which is a hard field to get into.”
The year 2020 changed everything about Haynes’ experience as a student reporter.
Early in 2020, Haynes started noticing posters calling a crisis pregnancy clinic on campus “fake.” Her interest was peaked: She launched an investigation into the center and found it was spreading medical misinformation about abortion safety. It was one of her most memorable stories, she said.
“That led—and I don’t know if anything came out of this—to somebody at the CU Student Government proposing that there be some sort of measure that prevents registered student organizations on campus from spreading medical misinformation,” Haynes said.
Weeks after her story published, campus shut down due to safety precautions during the coronavirus pandemic. Students no longer worked together in the tiny newsroom; instead they reported, wrote, edited and managed news stories remotely. But the team pulled together to make sure their quality of coverage didn’t change, she said.
The newsroom was simultaneously navigating another change: its operations within CMCI.
The college was interested in returning to a faculty mentorship model for the student publication, similar to The Campus Press; however, in 2018, CUI said it did not want to have a co-curricular function, according to journalism department records. In late 2019, CMCI decided to create a new media enterprise—a newsroom with co-curricular ties to the journalism program and strong focuses on faculty mentorship and media innovation—based on feedback from alumni, students, faculty and college leaders.
The decision changed the relationship between CMCI and CUI. The transition included a funding drawdown over 2020, the conversion of its office space to a much-needed classroom, and the end of its formal staff support position, although staff continued to help informally in 2020.
For the college, the shift provided an opportunity for its students to practice journalism in a media laboratory with strong faculty support and for the existing student newspaper to step further into its desired administrative and editorial independence.
For CUI students, several of whom were not involved in the initial discussions, the transition felt sudden. It was a tense and stressful time. As editor-in-chief, Haynes suddenly worried about legal rights and vulnerabilities, like lawsuits. She found herself managing web hosting, partnering with news aggregator apps and running a fundraising campaign—on top of her studies and editing duties.
Now, the paper is still seeking a permanent source of funding even as it continues to cover campus news, Haynes said. Looking back, she was impressed with how the newsroom came together during the funding challenges, the pandemic, and the 2021 mass shooting in Boulder, which Haynes personally witnessed.
“My managing editors, the news editors and the photographers did really great, comprehensive coverage of it without me,” Haynes said. “I thought that was a huge testament to how professional, thoughtful and great student reporters can be during times like that.”
Her time at the CU Independent was like an intensive program in leadership, team collaboration, hard work and getting the job done. But while at CUI, she also learned how important her work as a student journalist was to her campus and regional community.
“I was thinking of my work as just publishing stories because it was a thing I did for my resume,” said Haynes, who is pursuing a career in publishing. “After we saw all the public support that we had, I realized that this really was something that people wanted—good student coverage—and it was something people valued. It was something I was doing that was important on a larger scale.”
Journalism students Tayler Shaw (Jour, Span’21) and Lauren Irwin (Jour'22) conduct an interview in 2021. Photo by Andrew Patra (MediaSt'20)
CU NewsTeam student edits media in 2020. Photo by Kimberly Coffin (CritMed, StratComm’18)
Zoom-ing Through the News
In early 2020—just before the COVID-19 pandemic lurched into Colorado and shut down the state—journalism faculty approached Tayler Shaw (Jour, Span’21) and a handful of other student journalists about helping to build a new media enterprise in the college.
Shaw jumped at the opportunity. She wanted to dive into student journalism, to team up with other students, and to try something innovative. After months of work and planning, the team launched The Bold in August 2020. Part of its vision is to one day form a media collaborative with longstanding student news outlets, like Radio 1190 and NewsTeam Boulder.
The online publication features stories about campus events and issues, politics, sports and current events. The Bold also has a magazine section for long-form and themed content. As magazine editor-in-chief, Shaw helped produce 10 magazine editions during the 2020–21 academic year.
In the second edition, CU students wrote their own stories about their mental health journeys, whether it was experiencing anxiety, eating disorders or other mental health needs. The student writers also read their work to create an audio version, Shaw said.
“Especially during the pandemic, which was so isolating for people, it helped bring more awareness that people are not alone when they’re going through mental health struggles,” she said. “I also thought it was so powerful to actually listen to someone tell their own story at the same time.”
At The Bold, Shaw delegated stories, mentored young journalists, edited articles and multimedia elements, published the work online and pushed it out on social media platforms—all while jumping between Zoom meetings and helping to manage a remote newsroom during the pandemic.
Those responsibilities helped her land an internship with The Denver Post, where she honed her skills in daily news as the city desk intern. After finishing her degree, Shaw took on a new role as a reporter with Colorado Community Media.
“I think my experience at The Bold helped me in every way in my current position,” Shaw said.
For students, the best way to learn journalism is by doing it, and student publications provide the freedom to be creative and innovative. And for other students on campus, it’s more engaging to read news produced by peers in your own community, she said.
“When people are more aware of what’s happening, they’re more likely to engage in certain issues and ask important questions. It just creates a more connected, informed and thriving community when you have that type of campus publication,” Shaw said. “Who is more invested in figuring out what’s really going on than the people who are also impacted by the campus themselves? That’s why it’s so important that they (students) are storytellers.”
CU student photographs a CU football game in 2021. Photo by Kimberly Coffin (CritMed, StratComm’18)