A History of the UCLA Daily Bruin, 1919-1955
The Staff on Strike: Part 3
by George Garrigues
Printed edition © 1970, 1997
Internet Edition © 2000, 2001
All rights reserved, but you are welcome to download electronic copies, send e-copies to your friends or make printouts for yourself.
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Preface, Contents, List of Editors, Bibliography and Index
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11B. The Staff on Strike (1951)
The roll was called and Rexrode was appointed feature editor -- the first non-staffer to be named to the Editorial Board up to that time. A liberal council member then moved to appoint Shimer as managing editor, but the motion died for lack of a second. Brower, a normally quiet man, who had slumped wordlessly through the entire sequence, finally exploded in anger.
"I don't like to resign," he said. "The Bruin has always come first here at school. School itself has been secondary with me. I and the rest of the staff have worked long and hard on the Bruin. And now with Council's action, all the basic precepts of job security and the right of a person to work up to a position have been shattered. Three and a half years, working thirty hours a week -- shot! I resign!" Brower pushed back his chair and strode from the room. As one person, the Bruin staff rose and followed him. There were shouts, and noise and confusion. The staff was on strike.
Brower went to the telephone to call Schlapik, to tell him that the "entire staff was behind him [Schlapik] and ready to fight for his appointment. He sounded tired and not very interested." (Questionnaire.) But the staff was keyed up and restless. Many went to a Beverly Hills restaurant for coffee and conversation far into the night.
The next day, Washington's Birthday, there were no classes and no Bruin. That evening, however, an exhilarated Bruin staff got together at the printing plant at the Hollywood Citizen-News to put out their final issue for Friday. Someone was on the phone, an official staff list in hand. All members were contacted to see if they were or were not going to resign; at this crucial point the Bruin staffers wanted accuracy in their paper more than ever. A few Council members appeared since the Council had decided to put out the succeeding issues itself. A member of the Editorial Board showed them around the plant, explaining how the Bruin was made up, and then they left.
A staffer rushed into the shop, holding an early edition of the next morning's Los Angeles Examiner. "We're in the paper," she called out. A small group gathered to read:
[S]taff members, who have been resigning all week, met in Hollywood to organize a referendum to the student body in their fight with the Student Council . . .
The Council said it sought an editor free of connections with past regimes which earned the paper the campus nickname of "The People's Bruin" . . .
In 1948, hundreds of students petitioned the Student Council to halt the "repeated Red-tainted articles'' and "party-line tendencies" of the Bruin . . .
A spokesman for the Student Council said it had become "unfashionable" to work on the Bruin, and under past regimes anyone on the staff was considered a leftist. (LAEx, 2/23/51.)
"Hollywood?" said one staffer.
"That's to give it more subversive zing," explained another, Hollywood at that time being regarded as a center of left-wing activity.
"That's a bunch of crap!" added a third. "Let's get back to work."
The stories were written, the type set and the page of Linotype and Ludlow slugs inked by hand with a sticky black roller. The heavy platen of a proof press squeezed two large sheets of copy paper, one placed atop the other, into the hard metal type, and then the paper made a soft rustling noise as a printer pulled it away from the form. A 96-point headline jumped out conspicuously, "DB STAFF RESIGNS," and night editor Sonya Levin read the story beneath it thoughtfully and carefully:
By Ann Kligman and Sonya Levin
Action of Student Executive Council Wednesday night in appointing a non-member of the Bruin staff as feature editor has resulted in the resignation of the entire news staff personnel, effective as of today. Monday's paper will be put out by SEC members, with the aid of Harry Morris, ASUCLA director of publications, and any students wishing to work . . . (DB, 2/23/51.)
Then she turned to the two-column front-page editorial, bordered in black:
Rest in Peace
At approximately 1 a.m. Thursday morning The UCLA Daily Bruin, wounded many times during its existence as one of the greatest college dailies in the United States, was killed. This is the official announcement of its death. Considering the onslaught it has had to face during its many years of existence, it is a miracle that it survived so long . . .
Nowhere in this country has a periodical undergone the kind of punishment The Bruin has undergone. Few papers could have stood up as long as The Bruin has.
The history of The Bruin is packed with accounts of its battles for survival. It has not been an easy fight, and it has taken a lot of compromises from the staffs through the years, calling upon them to compromise what they believed in . . . just how far SEC thought we could be pushed I don't know . . . how could they have had the nerve to try to go this far? . . .
The staff is fighting mad . . . we are going to appeal to the campus, to their sense of fair play, to their principles of decency. Many men have experimented with bringing the dead back to life. Maybe we can perform this miracle with The Daily Bruin . . .
So ends a great era in college journalism. We had such great plans, such high ideals. I personally cannot be harsh with the people who killed The Bruin -- they think they know so much, they know so little, they have so much to learn.-- Martin A. Brower
Next to the editorial was a single-column box, inserted at the request of the Student Council.
Save The Bruin
The Daily Bruin is your newspaper -- the voice of the campus.
Due to the sudden resignation of most of its present staff, the paper is in danger of having to suspend publication.
Your Student Executive Council has determined to keep the paper going in the present emergency. All Bruins wishing to help in this crisis are urged to come to the Publications office, Kerckhoff hall 201, today.
SEC Committee Chairman
The Council's position, however, was solidifying. The paper appeared every day for the next two weeks, most of it consisting of sports stories, since the sports staff had not resigned. "UCLA WANTS A PAVILION!" a banner head screamed one day, in a fashion considered journalistically unprofessional by the regular staff, who crept up nervously to the hallway outside the Bruin office and watched the strangers walking back and forth inside the familiar doorway. The new writers were called "interim" staffers by the Council and "scabs" by some of the more angry Bruin resigners.
Chairman Joseph A. Brandt of the Department of Journalism wrote to the Administrative Committee: "As you have undoubtedly seen, the long, patient and understanding work that Dean Hahn has done with the student government and the management of the DAILY BRUIN has at last borne fruit." (Chanc, 1951, Folder 246-DB, 3/1/51.) The fruit was described less delicately by staffer Bob Myers (who later became editor) as an "abortion of journalism." (DB, 1/11/52.)
Editor Brower recalled the aftermath of the strike:
The staff was not happy out of their jobs, considered me their leader, and we realized that the paper was going to pot with the so called "scab" staff. We decided we could do a better of fighting wrong from within than from without, and so, since my resignation was not "accepted" officially, I tried to step back in. This was officially voted down by the Student Executive Council.
As it worked out, it was better that way, since when I was officially asked to come back for appointment, I did so after the Student Council agreed that certain regulations regarding length of service on the Bruin would be adopted so that an inexperienced person could not be appointed from outside. (Questionnaire.)
Two weeks after the mass resignation, Brower and three other members of the "old" staff were reappointed to the Editorial Board. Rue Corey, a newcomer who had worked diligently and well during the two-week period, was appointed from the "interim" staff. Brower wrote:
Back to Work
Last Wednesday night . . . the "old Bruin staff" came back to work on The Daily Bruin. The immediate question raised was Why? The answer, we believe, lies in our last sentence: back to The Bruin. To them, and to anyone who works on or ever has worked on the newspaper, the term "The Bruin" gets to mean something intangible, something that stands out above all else, something to be proud of . . .
The greatest problem in our returning was what to do with the "new staff." Could we work together? We decided that the objectives of both the "old" and "new" staffs were the same -- a great Daily Bruin . . .
The vacation is over -- it's time to go back to work. (DB, 3/9/51.)
In truth, about a third of the "old" staff remained away from the paper -- generally speaking, the more liberal staffers (a move hard to square with the concept that they were Communists attempting to control the paper). At first, the "old" and the "new" staffs did not mesh harmoniously, especially when the interim staffers were given paid night and desk editor positions that might have gone to hard-working senior reporters from the former staff. Insults were exchanged and hard words flew.
Bit by bit, though, the Bruin spirit began to work its magic. One day, a diehard staffer who had never found anything good to say about the "scabs" volunteered to work as a copy editor alongside a night editor from the interim staff because there was no one else to do the job. [That staffer was me, if the truth be known.] Soon, the old and new staffers began to mingle harmoniously on social occasions and at the shop. The Bruin spirit had flickered, but it had not gone out. glg
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12. The New Golden Age
"When an educational institution no longer has the freedom to choose its own instructors and install and implement its own system of housecleaning -- without the presence of a 'contact man' and a publicity-seeking legislative committee -- then it has become a prostitute in the academic world."