Paper Trail

The Colorado Daily has been on a long, strange trip for over a century. Is the journey ending or starting anew?

This rah-rah sensibility dominated the publication for many years to come. For instance, the front page of the October 27, 1925, edition led with "Varsity Rooters Out-Cheer Utah Backers at Game," which recounted the spectacle of "more than a thousand cheering students and townspeople" who met a train carrying CU's football squad and then paraded "to the Campus Drugstore and there dispersed, thus ending the trip which Salt Lake residents said was the greatest display of school spirit that they had ever seen." In addition, The Silver and Gold regularly devoted one of its meager handful of pages to society doings, even when World War II was raging: Readers on April 14, 1942, were no doubt fascinated by an item slugged "Evva Belle Peabody Tells of Engagement to Allan Vickers." Yet substance often crept into the newspaper's editorials. Woman's suffrage was debated in advance of its becoming Colorado law in 1893, and during the 1930s, the paper supported two students who fought against fascism and Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War, much to the chagrin of the local American Legion branch.

The paper changed its moniker to the Colorado Daily in 1953, reportedly because students thought The Silver and Gold made their product sound as if it specialized in mining news. The university apparently disagrees: It launched Silver and Gold Record, a weekly that highlights the school's faculty and staff, in 1970.

By the late '50s, the Daily's independent streak had grown more prominent. Back then, editors were chosen for one-year terms by the Board of Publications, a group made up of students, faculty and staff -- an arcane system that tended to undercut continuity. But by happenstance, a series of editors eager to look beyond parochial concerns wound up in positions of power, with opinion pieces in favor of civil rights and other attendant issues becoming commonplace. In 1962, this willingness to take controversial stands led to one of the Daily's first serious run-ins with the university. According to Boulder County Commissioner Paul Danish, who was a Daily staffer at the time and still writes occasional columns for the paper, then-editor Gary Althen raised hackles by publishing his hope that CU's football team, which had been sanctioned by the NCAA the previous year for recruiting violations, would "lose tomorrow's game and every game to follow."

Ronald Reagan getting kicked around by the Colorado Daily.
Ronald Reagan getting kicked around by the Colorado Daily.

Individuals offended by this declaration began sifting through the Daily in search of something to use against Althen, and found an article by writer Carl Mitcham that referred to conservative Arizona senator Barry Goldwater as "a fool, a mountebank, a murderer, no better than a common criminal."

They forwarded this to Goldwater, who then demanded an apology. Althen offered one, but that didn't prevent Denver Post cartoonist Paul Conrad, a future Pulitzer Prize winner, from portraying the Daily as a bastion for beatniks, which might have had some truth to it but still seemed insulting. Subsequently, the Rocky Mountain News reported that Mitcham, in a letter that attempted to explain his earlier salvo, dubbed ex-president Dwight Eisenhower "an old futzer." CU president Quigg Newton reacted to this curious description by canning Althen, whom he'd previously defended. Newton's action precipitated the walkout of several Daily staffers and members of the Board of Publications, yet, Danish says, "the paper managed somehow to survive."

Another major dustup occurred in 1966 over an incident involving Clancy Sheehy, a beloved Boulder eccentric who died last December at age 73. At four-foot-three, Sheehy was hardly the biggest man off campus, and he suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, which made him especially fragile. But the business he ran in Boulder's Hill district -- Clancy's Upstairs Bookstore -- was a favorite of CU attendees, partly because he allowed students to buy items on credit. Hence the uproar when he was arrested for selling indecent material after a policeman found a button on display at the shop that read "F*ck Censorship."

Bob Ewegen, a staffer at the Denver Post since the '70s, was then the Daily's editor, and he sprang to Sheehy's defense with an editorial in which he wrote that prosecuting someone for selling a button emblazoned with "F*ck Censorship" was the equivalent of saying "F*ck the Constitution." The Rocky Mountain News, which the Daily had previously lampooned in a parody issue as the Right-Wing Mountain Views, immediately leapt on these last three words (rendered in its pages as "---- the Constitution"), implying that the Daily had attacked the foundations of our democracy. Even a cursory reading of the line showed that this charge was untrue, but in the end, that didn't matter, as Ewegen acknowledges. "I quickly learned rule one of successful demagoguery," he says. "Which is, be careful about writing things your opponents can twist on you." Shortly thereafter, Ewegen responded with what he characterizes as "a heartfelt, marvelously crafted non-apology that would have made Bill Clinton proud" and braced himself for a spanking from the CU regents, including just-elected beer-empire heir Joe Coors, who once sued the Daily after cartoonist Rob Pudim drew him as a mad dog. Fortunately, other regents were friendlier to Ewegen, and he managed to escape further punishment.

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