Paper Trail

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

But the marriage between CU and the Daily didn't last much longer. Early on, the paper had been a vocal critic of the war in Vietnam, and as the fighting escalated, so did both the Daily's rhetoric and the university's displeasure with it. At various times during the '60s, Daily staffers tired of being pressured by school officials explored the prospect of going out on their own; Ewegen says a feasibility study about the topic took place during his tenure as editor. Regents, too, were looking for a way out, especially after a 1969 Supreme Court ruling, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, made it clear that attempts to censor the paper would lead to a protracted legal battle they'd almost certainly lose. In the decision, which supported the rights of three teenagers upset by what was happening in Vietnam to wear black armbands at school, the justices decreed that "First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and expression, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students, and neither students nor teachers shed such rights at the schoolhouse gate."

In the spring of 1970, with this precedent fresh in their minds, the regents voted to cut all campus publications loose, the Daily included. One regent who opposed the proposal predicted that the Daily would soon perish, which probably would have suited Joe Coors just fine. According to onetime Daily publisher Dennis Dubé, Coors quietly funded some start-up student publications more to his liking.

But the Daily was too stubborn to die.

Randy Miller is the new owner of the Colorado Daily.
Susan Goldstein
Randy Miller is the new owner of the Colorado Daily.
The cover of 1984's anti-Reagan issue.
The cover of 1984's anti-Reagan issue.

The last editor chosen under university rules was Timothy Lange, who wound up being the single most important figure over the next sixteen years of the Daily's life -- and some employees argue that even this statement sells him short. He's not among them: "I was just one of many people at that paper, really talented people who were working for nothing and who made it what it was," says Lange, who currently dwells in Southern California. But despite his efforts to demythologize himself, the legend persists.

Lange began writing columns for the paper in 1967, after which he became a copy editor, layout editor and, in 1970, editor of the paper as a whole. But he eagerly ditched this designation after the Daily split from CU and incorporated as a not-for-profit organization, becoming one of three titleless people who attempted to oversee editorial functions cooperatively. The paper also eschewed titles in its staff box.

Although the setup didn't last, it was symbolic of a publication that wanted to walk like it talked. So, too, were the covers of the Daily on February 5, 1971, and December 14, 1973. The former was dominated by a stark map of Southeast Asia accompanied by instructions on how to join a protest of the invasion of Cambodia and Laos at the State Capitol the next day; the latter was filled by a holiday-themed photo of the stoned-looking Daily staff beneath a marijuana-leaf graphic. Its caption said, "Peace on Earth to People."

The timing was right for this blend of militancy and youth orientation, Lange says. "Students got the right to vote in their local communities in 1971, and that totally changed Boulder. Before, it had been a moderately conservative place, fairly oriented toward the Chamber of Commerce and so on. But the students voted by tremendous margins for liberal and left-of-center candidates, and that continued for many years. So that was a watershed, and the Daily reflected it."

Synchronicity didn't necessarily translate to consistent financial success. Revenue was up and down over the next several years, and attempts to reposition the Daily as a community newspaper and not just a publication for students weren't widely embraced. Many staffers were laid off during summers, when the paper cut back its production schedule, and had to file for unemployment to survive -- a practice that was still ongoing long afterward. And even when the staff was at full strength, there was often more to do than bodies to do it. After five years of struggling under this workload, Lange left to write for a succession of area publications, including Westword. But he was cajoled into returning in 1980 after what staffers at the time describe as a "palace coup" against then-editor Jeff Morgan.

The we're-all-in-this-together management structure that helped bring about the second Lange era cut both ways, empowering employees throughout the paper yet spurring infighting capable of slowing decision-making to a crawl. But despite its drawbacks, the collectivist approach was so essential to the Daily's culture that Lange and company transformed the paper into an employee-owned business a few years later.

From that point forward, Daily workers who remained for a prescribed period (usually either two or three years) were vested with part ownership via shares in the company; this gave them the right to vote for company trustees whose primary duty was to appoint the board of directors -- and the board, in turn, was charged with choosing the publisher. (Three trustees served at any given time, while the size of the board varied from five to seven members and sometimes included non-employees chosen from the community.) Any vested employee could run for trustee or board seats without regard to department or position, meaning that the lowliest paste-up person might have more influence at times than his supervisor. In addition, staffers got to keep their shares after they left the Daily. These holders of so-called B-shares lost their voting privileges but stood to make money if the paper was ever sold for a profit.

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