The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.


IT is generally believed that the first course in newspaper writing in the United States was the one instituted at the University of Michigan during the academic year of 1890-91. The course was devised and taught by Fred Newton Scott ('84, Ph.D. '89), Assistant Professor of Rhetoric, under the title of Rapid Writing, and afforded two hours of credit in the Department of English and Rhetoric. The distinctive feature of this pioneering course was its attempt to approximate the conditions of the "city-room" in the preparation of news and editorial "copy."

Rapid Writing was dropped from the curriculum in 1893-94, and no further journalistic instruction was offered until 1903, when the courses in rhetoric were set up as a separate department with Professor Scott as its head. At this time journalism was revived in Rhetoric 13 (Newspaper Writing), a course which was continued, with modest additions, until a special program in journalism was announced in 1916.

The first addition to Rhetoric 13, which was concerned with "theory and practice," was Engineering English 2 (Technical Journalism), in the Department of Engineering, first taught in 1904-5 by Instructor Royal Albert Abbott (Ohio State '00, A.M. ibid. '02) under Professor Scott's supervision. Rhetoric 15 (Reporting and Editorial Work) was added to the curriculum in 1905. This course, open only "to editors and reporters of student publications and those with special permission," was continued the second semester as Rhetoric 16. The following year Rhetoric 13 was taught by Assistant Professor Joseph Morris Thomas ('98, Ph.D. '10) and Rhetoric 15 and 16 were taught by Lewis Burtron Hessler (Pennsylvania '05, Ph.D. ibid. '16), Instructor in Rhetoric. In 1907 Professor Scott resumed the teaching of Rhetoric 13 and Professor Thomas assumed direction of Rhetoric 15 and 16 for one year, after which they were dropped.

The 1909-10 Calendar of the University contained the following statement (pp. 212-13):

Credit will be granted for work on the student or University publications, provided that such work is elected as regular courses in the Department of Rhetoric and is done under the immediate direction of a member of that department.

The administration of the course in Journalism is entrusted to a standing committee of the Faculty… Upon graduation a special certificate will be given to students who, Page  623in covering the requirements for the Bachelor's degree, shall have completed a program of studies approved by this committee.

This offering was continued until 1916-17, when a special program of study, announced as "Courses in Journalism," increased the studies in journalism from four courses to eight. These courses were taught by Lyman Lloyd Bryson ('10, A.M. '15), who joined the faculty as Instructor in Rhetoric in 1913-14. In the fall of 1917 this special program was under the direction of John Alroy Mosenfelder ('17), Bryson having resigned. In 1918 John Lewis Brumm ('04, A.M. '06), Associate Professor of Rhetoric, took charge of all but the first two courses in journalism, and the following year taught all the courses.

In 1921-22 the Department of Rhetoric became officially known as the Department of Rhetoric and Journalism. The curriculum was increased to twelve courses, and Edwin Grant Burrows (Cornell '13) and Donal Hamilton Haines ('09) were appointed as instructors on the journalism faculty. As Professor of Rhetoric and Journalism, Brumm became the director of the curriculums in journalism.

The expanded curriculums in journalism included the following specialized courses: Elements of Journalism, Interpretative News Writing, Editorial Practice, Special Feature and Magazine Articles, History and Principles of Journalism, Seminar in Newspaper Problems, Newspaper Editing, Newspaper Ethics, Editorial Writing, the Country Newspaper, Written Criticism, and Advertisement Writing. The following year Magazine Writing (Journalism 43 and 44) was added to the list of courses, increasing their number to fourteen.

During the year 1924-25 Wesley Henry Maurer (A.B. Missouri '21, B.S. Public and Bus. Admin. ibid. '22, B.J. ibid. '22) was appointed to an instructorship in journalism to substitute for Professor Brumm, on academic leave. At this time the course in newspaper ethics was absorbed by the course in newspaper problems. In the fall of 1925 Howard Palfrey Jones (Columbia '21) joined the faculty in journalism, taking the place left vacant by the resignation of Mr. Burrows. Jones continued on the faculty until 1928-29, when, resigning, he was succeeded by Robert W. Desmond (Wisconsin '22). A year later, Desmond accepted an appointment to an instructorship at the University of Minnesota, and Wesley H. Maurer was recalled to the faculty in journalism.

Journalism became a separate department of instruction in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts in 1929-30, with Professor John L. Brumm at its head. Its offering of courses was again increased to fourteen, each course carrying three hours of credit. In 1932-33 two one-hour orientation courses were added as Journalism 1 and 2. Editorial Direction (Journalism 110) was established in 1935-36, and Specialized Reporting (Journalism 112) was first given in 1936-37.

The professional curriculums in journalism, carrying forty-six hours of credit, now embrace the following seventeen courses: the American Newspaper (two courses), Principles of Journalism, Advanced News Writing, Copyreading and Editing, Special Article Writing, Editorial Writing, Critical Writing and Reviewing, Advertisement Writing, Editorial Policy and Management, the Community Newspaper, Magazine Writing (two courses), Editorial Direction, the Development of American Journalism, Law of the Press, and Special Reporting. The faculty consists of Professor Brumm, Associate Professor Maurer, and Assistant Professor Haines.

Practice in writing and editing the various types of newspaper articles is afforded Page  624by The Michigan Journalist, a weekly publication instituted by Maurer in 1925 and fostered by the Department of Journalism as a laboratory newspaper (see pp. 625-26). Besides the contact with newspapers afforded by the Michigan Journalist, which is printed without cost to the University by various newspaper companies in the state, the department maintains relations with editors and publishers through the annual conventions of the University Press Club of Michigan. This professional organization of newspaper workers was instituted by Professor Brumm in 1918 for the purpose of bringing the press of the state and the University into a close relationship of mutual helpfulness. The club, embracing the Associated Press, the League of Small Dailies, and the Michigan Press Association, has a membership of about three hundred editors and publishers.

Broad educational interests, with statewide ramifications, are served through the sponsorship, by the Department of Journalism, of the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, an organization of high-school editors and their teacher advisers. This group was first brought together by Professor Brumm in 1921. Its annual meetings, covering a period of three days, are attended by some six hundred high-school students and teachers. The purpose of the convention is to foster superior practice in secondary-school journalism and to encourage the delegates to continue their education through college and into the various professional callings.

Education for journalism, as developed at the University of Michigan, embraces approximately one-fourth of the 120 credit hours in a four-year course leading to the bachelor of arts degree in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. These specialized courses are restricted to the junior and the senior years. The programs prescribed for the certificate in journalism include background courses comprising the cultural interests served by literature, languages, and the arts, and the critical interests inhering in the physical and the social sciences.

In dealing with education for journalism, one must realize that there is no such thing as an established and authoritative newspaper practice, in the sense of a rule-of-thumb procedure, as in law or medicine. In the range and the quality of its offerings, journalism is as varied as are individual newspapers. Each publication has its own management, its own editor or editors, its own corps of reporters, its own policy, and its own reading public. But regardless of their differences in personnel and substance, newspapers are alike in the purpose they are presumed to serve — the direction of news and opinion in the interest of public enlightenment. A newspaper, therefore, must be judged by the service it performs as a public intelligencer. It may prove acceptable to large numbers of undifferentiated readers for reasons other than this public service, but as a newspaper it can justify itself on no other grounds.

Journalism, more than any other instrumentality, must furnish the facts on which the judgments affecting the common weal may be formed. The journalist, in this view of a changing social order, will practice the art of compelling a popular interest in matters involving government, industry, science, health, justice, and myriads of other activities and forces that must be controlled and directed for the common good. Uncovering the facts, all the facts that are relevant to an intelligently ordered way of life — this is the responsibility of the professional journalist. And the training for this exacting service cannot be left to chance or to selfish interests, but must be scientifically devised and administered by public education.

Page  625It is this power to detect the real news and to record it so that readers shall be interested in it and shall direct their lives intelligently with reference to it that education for journalism seeks to develop in the intending journalist.

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.


Calendar, Univ. Mich., 1879-1914.
Catalogue and Register, Univ. Mich., 1923-27.
Catalogue …, Univ. Mich., 1914-23.
General Register Issue, Univ. Mich., 1927-40.
Michigan Alumnus, Vols. 9-46 (1902-40).
The Michigan Journalist, 1924-25, 1929-40.
President's Report, Univ. Mich., 1891-1909, 1920-40.
Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, 1890-1940.
University of Michigan News-Letter (title varies), 1898-1911.