FALL 1997 Montanan - Volume 15, Number 1
by Matt Ochsner
Editor Chas Pixley, class of 1899, watches over the production of the twenty-six-page publication, which will soon hit the newsstands at the outrageous price of fifteen cents an issue and will sell 600 copies.
Spreading across Kaimin pages four and five is "Russia or England?" This less-than-seething editorial tells readers why Russia would make a better ally than Britain. Filling page eighteen is a preview of the University's first football team, complete with a picture of players sporting leather helmets and baggy knickers. And on page one, there is a full-page description of how the first issue of the Montana Kaimin came to be.
"The students have felt the need of some common interest, something around which they can rally," Pixley's staff wrote in 1898. "In view of this they have begun a college paper, of which this is the first issue. The Kaimin will bid you welcome at the beginning of the college year, it will be with you during the year, and bid you farewell at the close."
Some 9,000 issues later the Kaimin has kept that promise, evolving from a literary magazine in Pixley's day into a college paper today seen by 6,000 readers four days a week.
This fall the paper will celebrate its 100th year-a century of University news that most Kaiminites admit hasn't always come easily. "I wish I would have kept some of those letters," said Ed Dugan, a Kaimin faculty adviser for more than thirty years before retiring from the journalism school in 1974. "Letters on pink stationery from little old ladies. They wanted to know why I wasn't protecting the morals of the young people. There were always people out to can me, out to fire me."
Recognized as the Northwest's first daily college newspaper in 1938, the Kaimin has survived a colorful history of administrative run-ins, fallen editors and slashed budgets. In the mid-1980s, a student senate angered by the paper's reporting slashed the Kaimin's budget to one dollar. Ten years later the paper didn't even fare that well when the senate cut its budget completely. Beginning this fall, the Kaimin will be funded by a two dollar per semester student fee in an attempt to avoid this political juggernaut.
Through all its battles and blunders the Kaimin kept printing, fine-tuning a century of journalists-a list that includes former Time magazine editor Bill Forbis, Pulitzer Prize-winners Jonathan Krim and Debra McKinney, painter Monte Dolack and television actor Carroll O'Connor.
Real News and More
The Kaimin began turning heads in Montana way back in 1909 when it slimmed to four pages and emerged as Missoula's newest weekly-five years before the journalism school would appear on campus, housed in Army surplus tents. Nearly 100 miles away, the Anaconda Standard heralded the Kaimin as "neat and attractive in style" and "full of real university news...which will be read with pleasure by the general public."
By 1915 the Kaimin had become biweekly, and five years later found room for a regular humor column dubbed "The Grist." Considered by many to be a little too risqué for a college paper, "The Grist" was heavily criticized by the campus community, especially after the Kaimin staff decided to include a poem titled "The Real He-Man."
A former Missoulian editor, Arthur Stone was dean of the School of Journalism from its founding in 1913 until he retired in 1942.
THE REAL HE-MAN
He doesn't smoke,
My pal named Mike;
He says it's too
In the early 1920s the journalism school and the Kaimin offices were moved into a World War I barracks built for the Student Army Training Corps. Known as "the shack," the building shook so violently when the presses ran that on June 27, 1925, journalism faculty and students didn't realize they were in the middle of an earthquake until they went home for lunch. Everything in the building, from the walls to the plumbing, was outdated and decrepit. It was even rumored the Kaimin's typewriters were original models their inventors had used when they applied for patents.
The Kaimin finally found a permanent home in 1936 when Dean Arthur Stone broke ground for UM's Journalism Building.
Rats and Resignations
This cartoon blasting the Board of Examiners was pulled from the first issue of the 1949 Kaimin.
Some thirteen years later the Kaimin would again be making waves.
On the front page of the first issue of the Kaimin in 1949 was an editorial cartoon blasting the Board of Examiners for going against state budgeting recommendations. The cartoon depicted three rats-each believed to be representing a member of the Board of Examiners-gnawing at a bag containing the University budget. Accompanying the cartoon was a stinging editorial written by Kaimin editor Bill Smurr, also criticizing the board.
Fearing the cartoon and the editorial might offend the governor and other state bigwigs, University President James McCain ordered the presses stopped and copies of the paper taken to the dump. McCain then asked Smurr to tone down his editorial and remove the cartoon before reprinting the newspaper. Grudgingly Smurr agreed to revise the editorial, but he refused to budge on the cartoon and ordered a new press run.
Once again the presses were stopped, and this time an emergency Central Board session was convened to hand down a decision. The board sided with the president, and Smurr resigned a short time later.
"I never was able to make up my mind that I did the wise thing in resigning," Smurr wrote in a letter to journalism Dean Nathaniel Blumberg years afterward. "As I see it today, I was foolish and honest, and the others were wise and dishonest. On the whole, I would rather be honest, I think."
A week after his resignation, a Kaimin associate editor named Carroll O'Connor followed Smurr's lead and also stepped down. O'Connor would eventually go on to play Archie Bunker on television's "All in the Family."
The Roaring Sixties
After mellowing a bit in the 1950s, the Kaimin shocked the state in the '60s with the "roaring" editorials of editor David Rorvik. Eventually going on to write at Time magazine, Rorvik attacked everything from the Vietnam War to laws prohibiting prostitution, all the while drawing fire from all corners of the state.
"The response we got in those days was enormous," Rorvik said some thirty-two years later. "We had people calling us a communist organization and demanding we stop corrupting the minds of University students.
"I cringe a bit when I think about some of those editorials today, but I think they were all appropriate at the time."
In one of his most notorious editorials titled "Contemporary Lay," Rorvik blasted the Catholic Church for its stand on birth control. "Asked if it is not more sinful to bring into the world children doomed to malnutrition, severe inequalities and possibly even death," Rorvik wrote, "the Church has smugly maintained that couples who cannot provide for progeny need only restrain their sexual desires-by sublimating them, we imagine, in Good Works and church bazaars."
In another editorial titled "Going to Pot," Rorvik called for the legalization of marijuana. "This may not be 'Boo-U,' but everybody who's In [sic] knows there are many here who are (off-and-) on. Only a couple years ago, five or six devotees could be seen, en huddle, Puffing the Magic Dragon right in front of Old Main."
While fifty-two students signed a letter asking that Rorvik be dismissed, several Montana newspapers were writing editorials critical of the Kaimin. A Billings radio station aired a multipart editorial series blasting the paper, calling the Kaimin "a red rag wrapped around filth and smut, seasoned with treason."
An Associated Press story that ran in papers throughout Montana said some parents were threatening to remove their children from the university because of the "alleged sex-flavored and subversive material in the Kaimin."
Dismayed by these threats, Governor Tim Babcock also began attacking the paper, especially after the Kaimin came within a few inches of printing a poem filled with sexual connotations. "I'm the most broad-minded person who's ever sat in this office," he said in a phone call to the Kaimin in 1966. "But I think the line should be drawn somewhere above that."
From Anti-War Marches to the Internet
Four years later came Kaimin editor T.J. Gilles and with him more controversy.
In only the second issue of the 1970 school year, Gilles wrote an editorial blasting UM program director Lee Tickell, whose job was to attract speakers and concerts to the University. Calling Tickell a "liar" and attacking "his weasel-like character," Gilles accused Tickell of lying to a reporter who had asked to see the minutes from a programming meeting. Gilles also referred to Tickell as a "tinhorn gambler" and blamed him for the council's $33,000 debt.
Even though the Kaimin ran a retraction two weeks later, Tickell contacted a lawyer and threatened the paper with a libel suit. Two days after the retraction, Gilles told senior editor Bill Vaughn he had decided to resign and left Missoula that day with only five dollars in his pocket. Tickell eventually dropped the suit.
"I sort of hit the road for a while after that," said Gilles, who returned a week later and was eventually rehired as the Kaimin sports editor.
Though Gilles is probably most remembered for this run-in with Tickell, it's the start he gave a young Montana artist that stands out in his mind. "I gave Monte Dolack his first art job," Gilles said. "He was our cartoonist, and I paid him one dollar to draw a caricature of this guy who was retiring."
Throughout the '60s and '70s the paper followed student protesters through the streets of Missoula during peace marches and ran a constant barrage of national Vietnam coverage, all at a time when Missoula was being recognized across Montana for its aggressive anti-war movement.
Some twenty years later Missoula and the Kaimin have again mellowed. The paper has trimmed down to two editorials a week instead of four and has added a home page on the Internet, which is updated daily.
Last May the Kaimin graduated three reporters, two of whom interned at the Great Falls Tribune while the other went to the Billings Gazette.
This fall the paper throws a new crop of aspiring journalists into the fire, preparing them, like so many before, for a rough-and-tumble career in the world of journalism.
"It's like that saying that no one wants to watch sausage or laws being made," Kaimin faculty adviser Carol Van Valkenburg said. "It's a little bit the same with learning how to become a journalist. But if the university isn't the place for that then I don't know what is." M
Matt Ochsner is the editor of the 1997-98 Montana Kaimin. A longer version of the above article first appeared in the Montana Journalism Review.