THE history of the news-service program began in 1897, when, on October 20, the Regents requested the faculty of the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts, "to report to the Board some general plan for getting University news before the people of the State." A report was made at the December meeting of the Regents by a committee appointed for the purpose, which was composed of Acting President Harry B. Hutchins and six others. This committee recommended:
- 1. That a bureau of University news be organized with some member of the literary faculty in charge, who is to be known as the University Editor and who should receive "such compensation as may be commensurate with the extra labor imposed."
- 2. That the University Editor be placed in charge of a certain portion of the alumni news, and that this portion of the paper be regarded as an official publication of the University.
- 3. That the University issue every second week a small bulletin or newsletter, to consist of material which will appear the following Page 353week in the official columns of the Alumni News.
In actual practice, the official news appeared first in the Michigan Alumnus and then was published separately in the form of a newsletter.
The committee also suggested that while some might feel that no member of the literary faculty should accept this office, since it represented a division of the energy which the instructor should devote to his proper field of work, there was one department, that of English composition, to which such work as the organization of a bureau of news and the preparation of the newsletter might be said properly to belong. It was pointed out that a considerable amount of work of this character had already been undertaken by certain advanced classes, and that some of the matter thus prepared had been published as correspondence in local papers. This practice could be carried a step further, in the committee's opinion, and a small class of advanced students could eventually be organized to report, systematically and under the direction of an instructor, the various activities and interests of the University. Here we have the germ out of which the Department of Journalism eventually developed, since "the tedious labor of news gathering … could be performed to some extent by members of the class as part of their regular work." The report of the faculty committee also included a memorandum of costs which gave $120.60 for eight issues of the proposed newsletter. The report was concluded by a survey of methods in vogue in other institutions.
The Regents took prompt action, appointed as University editor Fred Newton Scott ('84, Ph.D. '89), Junior Professor of Rhetoric, one of those who signed the report, and appropriated $100 for the inauguration of the program. Scott had been for some time communications editor of the Michigan Alumnus, which at that time was published under private auspices. The magazine was purchased by the Alumni Association in 1897, and in the first issue under the new auspices, January, 1899, Scott's name appeared as news editor.
Under his direction the special news section in the Michigan Alumnus was reprinted and distributed to the editors of the state in the form of a newsletter. The first issue appeared January 6, 1898, and thirteen more issues appeared in the late winter and spring. The following year, second-class postal privileges were secured for the publication, and a number of special editions appeared. A meeting of the Michigan State Farmers' Institute in Ann Arbor in February, 1900, was the occasion of a double-sized, two-column issue, of which hundreds of copies were sent out over the state.
Fred N. Scott continued as news editor until the fall of 1900, when Shirley W. Smith ('97, A.M. '00) became General Secretary of the Alumni Association and took over the editorial responsibility of the News-Letter. In 1901 the Regents granted the Alumni Association an annual appropriation of $1,400, of which $300 was allocated to the editing and printing of this publication, enabling the Alumni Association to engage a special student editor. The first appointment was that of Reginald P. Dryer, an engineering student of the class of 1903. Later student editors were George Bion Denton ('07, Ph.D. '16) and G. William Barnum ('05, A.M. '06).
During this period the News-Letter gradually expanded. In 1904-5, twenty-five issues, 114 pages in all, appeared, and there were 2,000 monthly subscribers. It was first a small, four-page leaflet, which was printed on only one side of the sheet and folded so that the editors could clip the material easily. Gradually more pages were added, and eventually an illustration Page 354service was established, through which half-tone illustrations were distributed to the newspapers. In the year 1905 some seventeen half-tone blocks were distributed to eighty-two papers in the state, which used some or all of the material furnished. The News-Letter also undertook the continuation of the bibliography of publications by the University faculty. This had first appeared in the University Record in 1891 and had been continued in the Michigan Alumnus, where it appeared in the June and July issues of 1897. Later this bibliography was included for several years in the President's Report, and now it is published separately by the Graduate School (see Part II: Research Club).
Eventually the news-service program exceeded considerably the appropriation made by the Regents. In his annual report for June, 1907, the General Secretary of the Alumni Association observed that the News-Letter had cost $800 annually for the preceding three years, an expense which was in great measure responsible for the Association's deficit. In 1907, the Regents gave an additional $500 to balance the overdraft. This extra assistance, however, was not continued, and for the year 1907-8 only ten numbers of the News-Letter were issued. For some years the publication was continued on this basis, but eventually, in 1912, readjustments became necessary. At this time the service was taken over by the University. A special office was established, and John Lewis Brumm, Assistant Professor of Rhetoric, was appointed news editor.
The nature of the new office was indicated in a letter which President Harry B. Hutchins addressed to the Board of Regents and which the Board approved on January 26, 1912. The relevant items in the letter were as follows:
… I have appointed Assistant Professor John L. Brumm of the Department of Rhetoric as University News Editor, to take charge of the work embodied for a number of years in the University News-Letter. As it is believed that better results can be secured without the publication of a printed bulletin for general distribution such as the News-Letter, the News-Letter itself has been discontinued. In place of it, Mr. Brumm will furnish letters concerning the University at frequent intervals and as regularly as possible to newspapers in the State and elsewhere. The general purpose of these letters is to place the University before the public, especially of this State, and to approach the matter from the point of view of the interests of the local paper … It is not intended in any sense that his office shall be made exclusive for the giving out of news … In general it is understood that he will originate and plan methods by which proper publicity of University affairs shall be secured, all his efforts, however, being with due regard to our limitations as to money and time. The expense of this work will be kept within the allowance made for the News-Letter and every effort will be made to determine so far as it may be possible, the results actually achieved.
… Should he need any assistance in carrying on his work in the Department of Rhetoric, he is to make provision for that expense out of his allowance of $200. The University is to furnish him with such stenographic help as the work may require, together with such office equipment as may be needed.
(Hutchins, letter, Dec. 8, 1911.)
At the October meeting of the Regents in 1912 the sum of $700 was appropriated to cover the expenses of the University news editorship. In 1916 the Regents authorized the purchase of a "multigraph duplicating machine" and the fitting up of a room in West Hall for the news service. Lack of an appropriation for expenses resulted in the lapse of the news service in 1918, but it was revived, with an appropriation of $800, in 1919-20.
Page 355Owing to the economic stringency in 1920, the president raised the question as to the desirability of continuing the news bulletins. The Regents directed that the service be continued. It was carried on through the years 1921-23, as Brumm, then Professor of Rhetoric and Journalism, offered to do the work without editorial compensation. In 1924, the sum of $275 was added to the annual appropriation of $600 for the issuance of the news bulletin. The arrangement was continued until 1928, when administrative duties compelled Professor Brumm to give up this additional editorial work.
The need, however, for some agency which would serve as the distributing center for news of the University, particularly to the press of Michigan, was becoming increasingly apparent. As a result, in September, 1930, Wilfred B. Shaw, as Director of the Bureau of Alumni Relations, was requested to develop a program in this field, since it was felt that the dissemination of accurate news concerning the University was one desirable objective in any alumni program. A budget of $1,600 was allowed by the Regents and an assistant in news dissemination was engaged. For the first few years the program consisted largely of weekly mimeographed news releases, sent, for the most part, to the newspapers of Michigan.
Requests from editors all over the state for personal items regarding students from their communities also made it necessary eventually for the News Service, as it had by that time come to be called, to inaugurate a program to meet this demand from the Michigan press by the employment of Mrs. Ruth Trezise ('36, A.M. '37). In 1937 Donald K. Anderson ('37) was appointed assistant in general charge of the whole program, and by 1940 the services of three assistants and of some eight students under the National Youth Administration were required.
This rapidly expanding program has enabled the University to meet many of the demands of the state press, as well as of the larger newspapers outside Michigan for interesting and authoritative material regarding the University. A study of published items shows that a large proportion of the material published about the University has arisen from material sent out by the News Service. In addition to the personal items regarding students and the general information distributed through the weekly releases, special articles are continually prepared, pictures are sent out in answer to an increasing demand, and personal contacts are maintained, not only with newspaper editors throughout the state, but also with the correspondents of the various press associations and leading Michigan papers in Ann Arbor. The Service also acts as consultant to various University departments in developing publicity programs.