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Features May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2
   

Front Page
by Neda Oreizy, ’08

 
     

In May, over 100 former student journalists from UCSD’S Guardian, previously known as the Triton Times, celebrated 40 years of publication and shared their experiences at a reunion hosted appropriately enough at Porter’s Pub. The event brought together editors, reporters and photographers from the ’60s through the present, to reminisce about the stories, and the stories behind the stories, that have shaped UCSD’s student newspaper through four decades.

UCSD’s student-run newspaper has been independent since its inception 40 years ago and free from direct University oversight for the last 30. Throughout the decades, this fiercely independent group of journalists has been the student voice at UCSD, as well as sometimes providing a healthy counterpoint to the actions of the administration. In the process, the newspaper has also created a unique transcript of the University’s history.

According to its first editor-in-chief, Renney Senn (attended Revelle from ’66 to ’68 but graduated from UCLA in ’69), the Triton Times was created so that “everybody could have an idea of what the hell was going on here.” It was a simple goal, but it still applies today. At a time when Vietnam War protests on the UC campuses presented an unpopular opinion of college students, Senn and his team of fledgling journalists focused on unbiased and realistic portrayals of student activism.

The paper often took strong stances on the ongoing controversy surrounding Third College, today known as Thurgood Marshall College. Roger Showley, Muir ’70, recalls delivering an advanced copy of the Triton Times to a pajama-clad Chancellor William J. McGill on the evening of November 24, 1969. The front page displayed a bold illustration of an African-American man and a Latino man over a dark outline of Africa and South America. The headline read: “Third College—the Quiet Revolution.” The editorial, which was featured on the front page, declared that “Third College is probably the most exciting educational experiment in America today.”

By 1974, Third College had had several years to develop and tensions had eased. Or, that’s what the Triton Times staff believed. Its annual April Fool’s issue featured Joseph Watson, then provost of Third College (“Watson Takes Fifth: Shockley Appointed Provost at Third”) and a new faculty member who satisfied minority quotas by being a woman, black, American-Indian and having a Spanish surname (“Four-in-One: University Fills Quota”).

The issue stirred up a great deal of criticism from students and administration alike, and the Triton Times was found to have been “‘consistently insensitive’ to the interests of ‘people of color’ at UCSD,” according to the Communications Board, the paper’s advisory board. Hundreds of copies of the paper were burned and the Communications Board recommended that Chancellor William D. McElroy dismiss Editor-in-Chief David Buchbinder, Muir ’74. Buchbinder was fired 10 days after the issue was published, however, the decision was later rescinded.

“Looked at today through different prisms, these stories would clearly be deemed insensitive and inappropriate as they made fun of racial stereotypes,” Larry Deckel, Revelle ’75, says. “But this was in an era before political correctness had even been invented. We thought we were doing bold satire. We were naïve.”

But these brushes with the administration led to the paper establishing its independence from the University and the Communications Board. David Eisen, Warren ’78, recalls selling advertising in the summer of 1976 so that the paper could support itself without taking marginal amounts of student fees. “Becoming independent had less to do with school censorship than it did with credibility,” Eisen says. “Once we were independent, we were no longer subject to the criticism that what we were printing, or failing to print, was somehow affected by the need to keep the school administration happy.”

Not only did the newspaper go fully independent from the University, but for several weeks in 1980 it became a daily publication and the name changed to the Daily Guardian. However, as a school without a formal journalism program, staffing issues made the schedule overwhelming, according to the editor-in-chief during the transition, Katherine Huffer Cowan, Marshall ’83. The Guardian therefore returned to a biweekly publication to avoid a shortage of content.

By 1985, Vice Chancellor of Undergraduate Affairs Joseph W. Watson changed the school’s alcohol policy, spurring illustrator John Ashlee, Warren ’86, to draw a distinctive front page illustration.

Over the years, student journalists continued to take strong positions on controversial issues. Ever since Showley made election guides a staple for the paper in 1967, the editorial board has detailed the pros and cons of candidates and referendums, and made recommendations for University-wide elections. More recently, the Guardian gave in-depth coverage of the controversy over the athletic-fee referendum, which proposed athletics scholarships for the first time ever at UCSD. The subsequent “yes” vote produced the highest turnout in A.S. history.

While the school paper has changed names, moved offices and upgraded its technology, it has survived as one of the longest lasting student-run businesses on campus. And its goal remains the same as that expressed by its very first editor-in-chief—to give everybody an idea of what the hell is going on here.

Neda Oreizy, Marshall ’08, is the editorial intern at @UCSD magazine and a senior staff writer at the Guardian.

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"Throughout the decades, this fiercely independent group of journalists has been the student voice at UCSD, as well as sometimes providing a healthy counterpoint to the actions of the administration."