Spreading this kind of information isn't easy, since the Review faces peculiar distribution challenges. Editor Andrew Mountain says his staff can't leave piles of papers in strategic locations, as do representatives of virtually every other CU publication, because "we're concerned that if we put out large stacks, people who don't like what we're saying will just toss them."
For that reason, Review contributors generally dole out the 1,000 or so copies they print up three times a semester by hand -- an approach that can lead to immediate feedback. "Sometimes people will tell you, 'I'm not reading that crap,'" admits Review treasurer Matt Schuldt, "or they'll pick one up and then come back a few minutes later to scream at you. But we also get people who tell us how much they like to read our stuff, because it's different."
"It's not the best-known paper here," Mountain concedes. "We're still making a name for ourselves. But there are a lot of kids who seem apathetic or apolitical, and yet they have beliefs like ours. They need to be shown that other people exist who are like them."
This idea isn't new, as Kirk Hamm understands. Along with fellow students Jordan Andrews and Mike Sandoval, Hamm, who's in his final year of law school at CU, conceived the Review six years ago. "From the beginning, we called it a conservative journal, but we wanted to provide a balanced perspective," he says. "Our staff had conservatives, liberals, straights, gays." Hamm added plenty of diversity all by himself, given that he identifies himself as a "bisexual and a pagan," and he says he found greater acceptance for his lifestyle from those on the right than people on the left. In his view, "CU liberalism doesn't recognize individuality. You're a member of a group, and you must adhere to what your group supposedly believes in. But in my opinion, civil rights, tolerance and freedom were never advanced by forcing adherence to group ideology. It's only forwarded by giving individuals the freedom to do and believe what they will, and the conservatives at CU were the only people who seemed to realize that."
Using resources from the Collegiate Network, an organization founded by former treasury secretary William Simon and neo-con thinker Irving Kristol to spread conservatism on U.S. campuses, the Review debuted in the fall of 1999 with a critique of CU's women's-studies department that caused a stir among students and faculty, to Hamm's delight. Afterward, he says, "a few businesses around town who enjoyed the idea of something conservative in Boulder bought ads. It almost made them laugh, so they were willing to give us money as a pity gesture." Still, cash alone wasn't enough to keep the Review running. At the end of its first year, Hamm recalls, "most of the editorial staff either graduated or went into positions at the student union and didn't have time to keep putting out the paper. There wasn't much institutional memory left to carry it on."
For that reason, the Review fell into dormancy in 2000. During the next few years, Hamm says, "I went to many meetings with students anxious to restart it. But even though they all had passion, none of them actually did it."
That changed in 2004 thanks largely to another outside organization: the Leadership Institute, an Arlington, Virginia, organization that helped start over twenty conservative publications at American colleges last year. Mountain and fellow student Ben Meininger, who's no longer with the Review, attended an Institute conference designed to help journalism novices learn the do's and don'ts of putting together a newspaper. Jim Eltringham, the Institute's director of campus services, believes that staying local is key. "If somebody wants to hear about national issues from a conservative angle, they can look at anyone from George Will to Ann Coulter," he says. "So that op-ed you wrote about missile defense or lower taxes won't mean as much to people as if you write about your area of expertise, which is your own campus." Eltringham also recommends that fledgling papers steer clear of advertising in the beginning and focus on grants from parties interested in their cause. The Review crew listened. The only ad in their latest issue is a plug for (surprise) the Leadership Institute, which provides the paper with modest financial support. It reads, "GET PAID TO FIGHT THE LEFT!"
Mountain and Schuldt haven't reaped many rewards for their efforts thus far. Indeed, both have donated some of their own dough to keep the Review alive -- and when they graduate in a year or so, there's no guarantee that others at CU will invite the sort of abuse that frequently greets them when they're disseminating the journal. That's why Mountain is actively looking for kindred spirits who can see the positive side of even the most negative reactions.