Decade Team: Joe Crimmings, Jenna Jones, Luke Jennett, Clark Middleton, Zach Peterson, Melissa Rogers, Bill Scieszinski, Candace Cornick (captain)

In 1910, Iowa State was a college that was preparing itself for change.  Its official newspaper, the Iowa State Student, would be buffeted by changes as the decade passed.

As the decade began, editors of the paper issued a stern rebuke to the designers and operators of the college railway, which opponents maintained was a hazard to student pedestrians.

“Wanted – someone to spank the college railway,” read an editorial in the May 23, 1910, edition.  “We hardly dare print profanity, but if any of our readers can write something which might cut somewhat into the hide of the management, we would be glad to give them space in our columns.”

However, this was a much shaper tone than most of the issues of The Student embraced.  Throughout the decade, the paper was more likely to run encouraging sports features and positive reports on school developments.  Bad news and critical reporting were rare.

In 1912-13, The Student took on the issues of a campus-wide smoking ban and a motion by the board of education to eliminate the college for Home Economics.

However, by the beginning of the 1914-15 academic year these things had given way to a frantic focus on Iowa State football. The first issue of The Student featured two articles on the front page about the team and its chances for the year.

In 1914, major change occurred for the staff of The Student. Starting that year, a front-page notice blared that The Student would publish three issues a week, as opposed to two.  This would require a significant amount of effort on behalf of the staff. The major issue was the extra $1,000 a year required to fulfill the promise.

It was a promise made by the editorial staff the previous spring, apparently due in part to the demand to have Sunday coverage of Iowa State football games. At the time, the games were a staple of life on campus.

The Student was available by subscription and purchase only, and the front-page bulletin declared that the service would only be possible with 2,000 total subscriptions to the paper. An issue taken up during the course of the year clearly illustrates the paper's relationship with the university, and in particular the administrative heads of the college.

The paper's status as a clearinghouse for favorable reports about university life is confirmed by an item in the Feb. 18, 1915 edition, in which the then president Pearson met with editors with concerns about the coverage in the paper.  In a story titled, “Tells Student Paper to Protect Readers,” Pearson reportedly sat in an editorial meeting with the paper's staff and outlined his perspective on the matter of the Student's scope.

It is unclear what caused this intervention by the president. It is only clear that he suggested to editors that they be careful about what they allow to run in the paper, which, he told them, represents the college. He reportedly gave several helpful tips for “better serving the interests of college.” He called for the staff to protect readers from stories, sources and letters that could contain misstatements of facts or dangerous ideas.

He also suggested changing the publication board, adding students so the composition would be two faculty members and six to eight students.  This board, he suggested, should have complete control over the editorial and business content of the paper.

What is perhaps most surprising is that the editors seemed only too happy to take on these extra restrictions. This suggests that the concept of journalism as a watchdog for the public was non-existence in Ames at the time.

By 1918, the newspaper's size decreased to four pages after having been an eight-page rag for several years. The war caused the staff to cut back its output.

The Student of the 1910s provides a stark contrast to the contemporary student paper and paints a picture of the time in which these old four- and eight-page issues were published. It was a time when the student body was unified in its love of football and civility, and when journalism had not yet begun to become as institutionalized as a profession as it is today.

International news did not get much coverage.  The favored news items generally included local events such as a coal strike that would later threaten to shut down the college and an outbreak of influenza







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