A History of the UCLA Daily Bruin, 1919-1955
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.
Go to the Front of the Book
Preface, Contents, List of Editors, Bibliography and Index
Go to the Previous Section
14C. The 'Death' of the Daily Bruin
"Editors had to run for elective office just like politicians, and the newspaper was closely controlled by the Council," wrote Graduate Manager William C. Ackerman (1969). Charges of graft and vote-selling were hurled in one election. Editors who succeeded in pleasing the conservative campus electorate still had to submit names of their editorial boards to the Student Council for approval, with the same, inevitable result of friction and ill feeling.
In 1956 Editor Joe Colmenares was told by the Student Council that he could not print unsigned editorials reflecting the majority of opinion of the editorial board (DB, 9/21/56.) In fact, the Council ruled that no editorials could be run at all; opinion pieces were to be signed by the writer, without using an editorial kicker as had been the custom. (DB, 9/28/56.)
Staff writer Eric Shuman told of the breakdown in morale caused by the campuswide election system and the unchecked appointment power of the elected editor:
The normal process of producing The DB was not able to continue. Hypocrisy was developed to a fine art; friends became foes; principles and convictions were forsaken -- all for the sake of being named to an editorial board position.
Such was never the case before the Administration directive of December, 1954. There were politics on the Bruin then, too, but never were they of this sort. They were clean and aboveboard and came into the forefront at the Sunday staff recommendations meeting and then they were forgotten. (DB, 1/6/56.)
By 1957, the silent, uncommitted generation was in full flower. Opinion pages were cut back with the announcement they would be printed "only when people have something to say." (DB, 11/11/57.) Editor Edward B. Robinson wrote:
There are those who might argue that it is the duty of the campus paper to stir up conflict, to keep student interest stimulated. This is not true. Our job is merely to present campus news in a clear and readable form. (DB, 10/1/57.)
This "clear and readable" news included two front-page stories later that month: "Socialist Workers Cited 'Subversive'" (DB, 10/11/57) and "Socialist Workers Tie-up With Communists Shown" (DB, 10/14/57). The sources for this "campus news" were the House Committee on Un-American Activities and the U.S. Attorney General's Office. The Bruin had finally joined the prevailing reactionary trend and even supported the Student Council in welcoming an investigation by a state legislative committee of subversion on the campus. (DB, 12/10/56.)
Eventually, student election of editors was ended, and the Council took back the appointing power, with the blessing of the Administration, which had looked on appalled at the monster it had created. By that time, however, no one remained on the Bruin staff who remembered the "slate" system and that powerful force for editorial independence. Still later, in 1963, the Administration again changed the Bruin constitution by establishing an independent Communications Board that removed all of the Student Council's power over the Bruin.
All of these events were far in the future, however, when Irv Drasnin and his staff took over the reins of the Bruin in spring 1955. Drasnin was immediately faced with some real problems: Much of the "old" staff had resigned in disgust or disappointment (but Martin McReynolds stayed on as a senior reporter), and the shortage of workers was so serious that Drasnin had to call on his Student Council supporters for the physical help of writing copy (Obs, 2/21/55.)
And, now that the Council had control of the Bruin, it desperately wanted to cast off the shackles that the Administration had placed upon the newspaper. Negotiations succeeded in removing the 150-word limitation on non-staff opinion articles (DB, 3/28/55), but the Council was unsuccessful in its bid to annul student election of the editor-in-chief; it wanted the appointing power back.
The Administration's dilemma was
that the incoming Bruin editors were no more tractable than the outgoing.
Drasnin, later a producer-writer for CBS News in New York, recalled his
"sincere belief" that the Bruin had been controlled by a "self-perpetuating
clique and . . . was not a 'representative' press" in the years before
But neither do I believe that a student body election of The Bruin editor was or is the answer, for that would make the editor (at least then) simply the representative of the fraternities and sororities, without regard to any journalistic qualifications. (Questionnaire.)
Drasnin became a leader in the fight against the Administration veto over student editors, was elected student body president for the 1955-56 academic year on that plank and attempted to thwart the continuing changes being made in the ASUCLA constitution by the Administration without any consultation with student leaders. The details of the struggle are beyond the scope of this work, but one point is clear: The student cause was weakened by the continuing feuding between the "old" and "new" staffs of the Bruin. There was no rapprochement as there had been following the Schlapik-Rexrode walkout.
Five members of the "old" staff began a weekly publication called The Observer, an essentially moderate publication devoted to "a greater University of California . . . a more meaningful student government . . . a truly vital student press."
The editors applied for permission to distribute the neatly printed, four-page publication on the campus and were at first told by Assistant Dean of Students Byron Atkinson that approval would be forthcoming if The Observer did not "advocate partisan, religious or political positions . . . [did] not attack the administration on the same points which were contested last semester in the Bruin" and restricted criticism of the Dec. 7 directive "to specific acts or omission in the coming semester." (Obs, 2/7/55.) Eventually, Atkinson denied the permission:
We do not feel that the on-campus distribution of your paper would be of any material benefit to the University.
Furthermore, we are naturally unwilling to lend the name and facilities of the University to any activity which cannot show financial responsibility and in which we have no voice.
It is our view that there is no necessity at the present time for granting recognition to an opposition newspaper to the Daily Bruin. (Obs, 2/21/55.)
Unfamiliar with the inexpensive cost of production by volunteer staffs in the relatively new offset process (about $30 an issue), Dean Hahn and his staff were puzzled at the source of funds for the newspaper. Richard Hill heard a rumor that support was coming from "the Ford Foundation and/or Robert Hutchins" (the esteemed educator who was president of the Fund for the Republic after 1954), and he asked University Police Captain William Wadman about it.
Wadman, who was called a "thought policeman" by the American Civil Liberties Union, was the "contact man" for the University of California with the state Senate Un-American Activities Committee. It was his job to keep a file on employees working on "classified" projects, although the ACLU charged that his files actually went far beyond this limitation. (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/6/54.) Wadman said he would "check out" Hill's rumor and "let us know what he learned." (Chanc, 1955, Folder 228.)
Undaunted by Administration disapproval, the Observer editors -- Fredy Perlman, Jerry Farber, Martin McReynolds, Barry Tunick and Steve Wayne -- put derbies on their heads and began distributing the paper at the Hilgard Avenue bus stop, the traditional center for dissemination of off-campus literature. It was symptomatic of those topsy-turvy times that the Administration's copies of this moderate, responsible newspaper were filed in a folder marked "Subversive Activities" where they perhaps remain to this day. Yesterday's subversion is today's curio.
With the troubled semester of spring 1955, this history of the Daily Bruin comes to a close.
Despite the repression and the time taken from journalistic tasks to engage in battle with its detractors, the Bruin was still able to produce polished and distinguished journalists during the four years following the 1951 walkout. They included Eric Shuman, later the editor of City News Service, Los Angeles; Irene Raddon Sharkey, assistant metropolitan editor of the Los Angeles Times; Bob Seizer and Jeff Blankfort, sports reporters for the Los Angeles Times; Bill Durkee, editor of Western Manufacturing; Toni Myrup Frank, longtime staffer on the Santa Monica Outlook. Jerry Farber became an English professor and wrote the widely quoted student bible of the Sixties, The Student as Nigger. Barry Tunick became a teacher and fashioned the weekly crossword puzzle for the Los Angeles Times.
More cannot be said about those times of thought repression than this: There was always the hope that things would get better. Editor Peter Graber summed up this feeling when he looked ahead to the years beyond in the final editorial of his term:
[W]ill UCLA ever be anything but a streetcar college, a place where students check in at 9 a.m. and check out at 4 p.m.? Is there a chance . . . that Westwood Village will ever be -- or can be -- a college town? . . .
Will there ever be dorms, a pavilion, a new student union, a faculty club? Will there ever be an end to loyalty oaths and contact men? Will the ASUCLA retain its independence from the Administration?
Maybe there'll be enlightened leadership generated among administrators, the faculty, the student body, the alumni. You know that there'll always be those waging the good fight -- and that The Daily Bruin will be in the forefront. (DB, 5/29/52.)
And, as was the custom, he ended his editorial with the traditional
"I agree with Dr.
Allen that it is a privilege to have a chance to work with a governmental
agency which may be called hysterical or witch-hunting, but completely
undeservedly. I think the University owes you a debt of gratitude for what
you gentlemen are doing."
Go to the Table of Contents and the Index