The Michigan Journalist
The Michigan Journalist, written and edited by students in the Department of Journalism, was established March 31, 1925, with the publication of Volume 1, Number 1, at the publishing plant of the Port Huron Times Herald, through the co-operation of the late E. J. Ottoway, then president of the Times Herald Publishing Company. Suspended during the period immediately following, it was revived in 1929-30 and has continued regularly throughout the ensuing years. From six to ten issues of the newspaper are published at weekly intervals in the second semester of each year by various Michigan newspaper companies. Included among these at various times have been the Detroit News, the Detroit Polish Herald, the Pontiac Press, the Adrian Telegram, the Owosso Argus Press, the Monroe Evening News, the Lansing State Journal, the Ann Arbor Daily News, the Birmingham Eccentric, the Royal Oak Tribune, the Ypsilanti Press, the Port Huron Times Herald, the Battle Creek Enquirer-News, the Trenton Times, the Coldwater Reporter, and the Washtenaw Post-Tribune. Ninety-six issues having been published in the thirteen years to 1940. More than 750 students have contributed to its columns, which embrace the work of those in several courses — Editorial Writing, Advanced Newswriting, Specialized Reporting, Copyreading and Editing, Feature Writing, Community Newspaper, and Editorial Direction. Its highly specialized and critical reading public, numbering from 2,600 to 3,000, includes members of the University faculties, state legislators, Michigan congressmen, newspaper publishers, high-school teachers, heads of scientific and social foundations, and other public leaders and agencies.
The newspaper is distinctive as a teaching device in journalism. It publishes no advertising, and all its articles and editorials are signed by the writers. It has no editorial or news policy, other than the requirement that the written material must be of social significance. All interview sources are expected to approve manuscripts before they are published, a procedure which, although not customary in newspaper work, enlists the co-operation of specialists in the training of future reporters. Since each issue is published at a different newspaper plant, the typographical and mechanical requirements differ, a circumstance which affords students opportunity to learn a variety of practices in composing rooms as they affect editorial procedures. Materials for publication, prepared and edited in Ann Arbor, are mailed to the various publication plants in advance, beginning two weeks before publication — a requirement which demands meticulous and methodical work. Ten to fifteen students accompany instructors to the plant for make-up and final publication details on the date of publication, the field trips providing occasion for conferences with publishers, editors, and superintendents of composing rooms.
Owing to its experimental character, the Michigan Journalist is free to develop new news sources and new editorial and newswriting patterns. Since its first issue it has encouraged the interpretative article now becoming widely popular in American journalism. Its editorials and news articles represent a serious effort to report and to interpret trends in social movements and the ideas motivating them. Despite the publication of many articles dealing with controversial subjects, Page 626the Michigan Journalist has drawn from its readers, for the most part, only kindly constructive criticism, even when there was divergent opinion.
The following references illustrate the nature of the news articles.
Reports of the Federal Trade Commission's cease and desist orders were published as early as April, 1936. More than a page of information concerning the Copeland Food Bill, published March 30, 1934, brought from W. G. Campbell, director of the regulatory work of the Food and Drug Act, the public citation: "The Michigan Journalist has published the best piece of publicity that has been produced to inform the public of the necessity for adequate food, drug, and cosmetic legislation." Though issued but a few times each year, the Michigan Journalist, by analyzing unpublished engineering reports and presenting startling information on the cost of the hard-water damage to Ann Arbor households, successfully aroused sentiment for a water-softening plant in Ann Arbor.
Reporters and editors of the Michigan Journalist made the first detailed study of local tax delinquency in the state, and the report, published May 27, 1933, presented the result of an intensive study by twenty reporters of the city's delinquent taxes. The study was continued until 1936, when the delinquency tax problem became less acute. Following these reports, similar studies were made in other parts of the state, and the argument that the small-home owner would be the beneficiary of proposed legislative concessions to tax debtors was discredited. The pending legislation, calling for cancellation of delinquent taxes, was subsequently defeated.
Studies of public health, such as county health units, a medical economics survey for Michigan, and proposals for state medical clinics, have been reported regularly since 1929.
Experiments in publishing informational reports regarding organized religion are regularly represented in its pages.
Firsthand reports of the coal strike in Ohio from both labor and employer points of view were published in a series of articles beginning May 14, 1932. General working conditions, problems of pay and standards of living, occupational diseases and accidents, unemployment, and old-age pensions were the subjects of reports and editorials.
These references suffice to illustrate the experimental nature of the content and to suggest the type of training such exploration offers the student.