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A History of The State News

Every day, a massive student-led operation assembles the next day's pages of The State News, continuing a tradition of serving the MSU community that started in 1909 with the creation of the college's first newspaper. It's a tradition that includes 13 Pacemakers from the Associated Collegiate Press considered the Pulitzer of college journalism since 1960, and several designations as the best college newspaper in the country.

Every semester, a few more reporters, photographers, editors, advertising sales staff members and other employees move on from The State News to take their place in the professional world. They've gone to places such as The New York Times, The Associated Press, The Washington Post and just about every other major newspaper in the nation. Yet, as everyone moves through and beyond the doors to The State News, it's important to remember where the publication came from.

The campus on the bank of the Red Cedar River has had a student newspaper since the days of the Michigan Agricultural College. In 1909, The Holcad named for an ancient sailing ship began weekly publication of a tabloid student newspaper. The paper became the Michigan State News in 1925, when the college became Michigan State College.

In November 1937, the Board of Agriculture raised the fee for the newspaper from 35 cents per term to 50 cents. In February 1940, students voted on a State News fee, and on March 11, 1940, they voted to retain that fee. A year later, continuation of the fee policy was approved at 50 cents per term. It was made optional for new students.

The State News became a daily in 1942, the days of MSU President John Hannah. All students were required to pay 50 cents per term; 25 cents for summer session.

The first daily Volume 1, No. 1, dated Sept. 26, 1942 includes as a cutline: "With the goal of keeping its student body better informed on both world and college events, The Michigan State News entered the field of daily newspapers this morning with a 16-page edition. Here College President John A. Hannah 'pulls' a page proof with A.A. Applegate of Standish, business manager, watching at his right. Sheldon Moyer, Detroit (holding a proof) and Len Barnes, Cadillac (reading over his shoulder), are managing editor and editorial director, respectively."

In April 1944, a special committee upped the fee to 75 cents a term, with deficits met by the university, but to be repaid if the newspaper showed a profit. In 1947-48, The State News was in the university general fund budget for $35,000. By 1960-61, that budget line showed $45,000 for The State News.

The subsidy for The State News ended at this point, but university administration established a $1 per term fee for The State News.

In 1970, then-President Clifton Wharton appointed an ad hoc committee to study The State News operation, including possible separate incorporation of the newspaper.

That study led to The State News' independence in 1971. Until then, it was operated under the Student Publications Board, which also had jurisdiction over the MSU yearbook and other publications. Appointments to the board were by the president of the university, and included journalism faculty representatives.

Action incorporation of The State News as a nonprofit institution occurred on June 15, 1971. The incorporators were Wharton and MSU Vice Presidents Jack Breslin and Roger Wilkinson. At the time, MSU Counsel Leland Carr said that incorporation of the newspaper would, by removing the university as party to the newspaper's printing contract and divorcing responsibility of its content, protect the university from possible libel actions against the newspaper.

The incorporation papers state the purpose of the organization as: "The publication, circulation and distribution of a student newspaper within the community of Michigan State University; the assurance that both tone and content of such student newspaper are determined by the student editorial staff; the prohibition of powers of veto and censorship over the news and editorial content thereof; and the acceptance of advice and criticism from administrators, faculty and students of Michigan State University who are not staff members of such newspaper."

Members of the first Board of Directors which now includes 12 members, including seats for students, faculty and staff members, and professional journalists were Arthur P. Gallagher, Thomas F. List, William B. Wallmer, Linda Gortmaker, Frank B. Senger, Victor Spaniolo and Deborah Witgen. Louis J. Berman became the independent newspaper's first general manager, a position he had held since 1962.

Actions by the MSU Board of Trustees authorizing the incorporation also granted the newspaper leasehold indenture on quarters in Students Services then occupied by The State News.

The university turned $100,000 half of what was in the newspaper's account before incorporation over to the publication as part of an agreement that was to cover 10 years rental of space on campus.

State News employees were also to continue on the university's payroll and fringe benefit program as part of the deal, with costs charged to The State News' account.

In 1976, a referendum was instituted by The State News in which students voted by a 5-to-1 margin to retain the $1 per term subscription system. In 1979, that fee was increased to $1.50 after a referendum, and rose again for the January 1984 winter term to $2.

The subscription fee for students increased from $4 to $5 per semester, including the summer session, in spring 2002.

Statenews.com, the newspaper's Web site, was launched in 1996. It has won numerous awards for being one of the top student newspaper Web sites in the nation.

The State News switched to full pagination in 1997 and now uses digital transmission to send pages. Today, Michigan Web Press produces The State News and the newspaper has its own distribution staff.

After more than 40 years occupying offices on the third floor of Student Services, The State News, and nearly 150 employees, moved across Grand River Avenue to a new East Lansing location in 2005. The building, formerly a Gap clothing store, is nearly twice the size of the paper's previous home.

With a circulation of 28,500 copies to about 280 locations on and off campus, The State News is one of the nation's largest student daily newspapers.