The Daily draws national attention for coverage

Monday, September 14, 2015 - 12:03pm

When a group of University students published the first issue of The Michigan Daily in September 1890, it was one of seven newspapers servicing the city of Ann Arbor. As the Daily enters its 125th year, it now stands as the city’s only daily print paper. Throughout its long history, the Daily has not only covered Ann Arbor and University news, but also generated national attention with its reporting.

When The Ann Arbor News ended its 174-year daily print run in July 2009, the Daily became the only paper in the city printing five days a week. The Ann Arbor News is now run by the digital media platform MLive.

MLive reporter Jeremy Allen, who predominantly covers the University, said there is some competition over who publishes a story first, but MLive and the Daily serve readers differently. The Ann Arbor News is charged primarily with serving the people of Ann Arbor, whereas the Daily largely caters to the University community.

“We kind of work together to provide coverage across the entire spectrum of anyone who has an interest in the University of Michigan,” Allen said.

University alum Gary Graca, who served as the Daily’s editor in chief when The Ann Arbor News announced the end of its daily print production, said though the Daily had always covered issues influencing the Ann Arbor community, the announcement incited the Daily’s staff to expand its coverage of the city.

“It’s a stretch to say the issues of the campus and the city are not intertwined, and the Daily clearly has a strong edge and clearly has the ability to cover high-level city issues,” Graca said. “That was kind of the thinking. How can we do the city council issues, how can we do the interaction between the city and campus better, and the city ordinance issues that affect student lives better?”

Throughout its long history as the University’s most prominent student publication, the Daily has found itself repeatedly making national headlines and, at times, breaking stories before its professional counterparts.

In April 1955, Daily reporter Hanley McGurwin packed into a Rackham Building auditorium to hear Dr. Thomas Francis Jr. — the University’s head epidemiologist at the time and leader of the field trial testing the polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk — describe the vaccine as “safe, effective and potent.”

The news, which the Daily reported first, was celebrated across the country as parents finally had a scientifically-proven means of protecting their children from polio, a major cause of death for children in the first half of the 20th century.

The Daily achieved national prominence again in September 1957, when it sent a staff reporter to Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas to pose as a student and cover the school’s integration. James Elsman Jr., then the Daily’s editorial director, wrote an eyewitness-account of the Little Rock Nine’s first day of class, reporting that only a little more than half the school’s students attended class that day.

The Daily has also garnered national attention as other newspapers have looked to the Daily for its noteworthy journalism. In 1967, The Washington Post published an article about the Daily after the student-run paper printed an editorial calling for the legalization of marijuana. The Post, quoting the article by Harvey Wasserman, then-University student, noted that the editorial described marijuana as having no worse effects than alcohol.

More recently, The New York Times published a lengthy article about the Daily and its coverage of a University scandal involving a member of the football team. As the Times noted, the Daily was the first to report that Brendan Gibbons, former football starting kicker, had permanently "separated" from the University for violating the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy five years prior.

The Times wrote that while the news of the scandal was shocking for the Ann Arbor community, the origin of the news was almost as shocking.

“The story was not broken by the local, professional news organization, The Ann Arbor News,” the Times wrote. “Instead, it was uncovered by The Michigan Daily, the university’s independently-run student newspaper.”