A shot from the campus of University of Wisconsin – Madison.
When thinking about great places to be a college journalist, big cities like New York or Chicago may come to mind, but did you know about the media microcosm in Madison, Wisc.?
Most universities have only one, if any, news publication that prints daily. Some larger schools will sometimes have multiple student newspapers and publications, but they tend to differ greatly in staff size and circulation. For example, students at the University of Michigan produce The Michigan Daily, which prints five days a week, but the alternative student publication, The Michigan Review, only prints about once every two weeks.
Ryan Rainey, the editor-in-chief of The Badger Herald said the Herald was created by a group of more conservative students in 1969 who believed the anti-war Cardinal — established in 1892 — had become too radical.
“During the ’60s, which were a very difficult time at UW, there were a lot of protests,” Rainey said. “There was a lot of violence on campus, and the Cardinal was seen as just a radical liberal newspaper that wasn’t being objective at all. So, obviously, the Herald was established to offset all of the radical liberalism with some radical conservatism.”
Rainey said that today the Cardinal is considered less editorially liberal than in those days, and that the Herald is no longer considered as conservative in its viewpoints. Scott Girard, the editor-in-chief of The Daily Cardinal, said that nowadays the two papers are editorially “center-left.”
But just because the papers are competitors doesn’t mean there is bad blood. The two newsrooms face off in an annual football game each year and when the Cardinal had financial troubles in the 1990s, there was even talk of a merger. (Today the two papers remain distinct.) Rainey said he is glad there was no merger and is grateful that the two papers still compete.
“We almost became one paper, but I really think if that had happened I would wonder what the state of journalism at UW would be like. It’s completely unique,” Rainey said. “[The city of] Seattle doesn’t have two daily printing newspapers that compete against each other, [but] the University of Wisconsin does.”
Rainey said that although other college papers around the country may have more money and resources, he believes the cross-campus competition enhances the Herald.
“We think we have a huge advantage because we have the Cardinal,” he said. “Both papers are better because of the other one.”
Girard said having a paper to compete with is great preparation for the competitive world of journalism.
“When there’s just a single paper, when you miss a story, you go back, you use it the next day,” Girard said. “But for us when you miss a story, it’s on the front page of the other paper and it kind of just rubs it in that you missed it. So it’s definitely a motivator and a reminder to always be on top of everything.”
Rainey said he will never forget the time he had just started work on a particular story, only to see it on the front page of the Cardinal the next day.
“The worst thing that can happen at the Herald is for the Cardinal to scoop you,” Rainey said. “I mean it’s the worst feeling. It happened to me once when I was city editor, which was my first editorship at the paper and it really is infuriating.”
Rainey and Girard said that because the University of Wisconsin is located in the same city as the Wisconsin state capitol, it is an exciting place to be a student reporter, adding that there is a great opportunity for a student journalist to report major news, such as the labor protests against Gov. Scott Walker in 2011.
“A lot of times it can be tough to get a scoop on the actual Madison newspaper in Wisconsin,” Girard said. “That was a situation where we were even actually trying to out-scoop [the Wisconsin State Journal] because it was happening just down the street. We all had just as good of an opportunity.”
Girard said some students read both papers, but most tend to pick a favorite.
“There is a fair amount of students who have kind of built up loyalties to one or the other, for who knows what reason,” Girard said. “I do see a quite a few students, and I always respect this and think this is pretty cool, that do pick up both papers.”
In a world where print newspapers are fewer and farther between, the University of Wisconsin continues to provide readers with more than the news. They also provide a choice.
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