It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of The Daily Cardinal ships to stores and places that have ordered it and those of you who’ve placed orders and, you know, my mom, and the whole rest of the world today!
One of the most moving stories I heard during my researching of this book, the story of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s 115-year-old student newspaper and through it, the story of the past and future of American journalism, was that of Richard Davis.
Davis was editor of the paper for one day in 1938. One day. He was fired from his position because he was Jewish and the self-described “frat men” who ran the campus didn’t like the growing influence of “out of state” students at the university. Supported by a shameful number of people within the university establishment, they ran a campaign against Davis, who led his staff out on strike in protest of his firing and published a strike edition of the paper for weeks.
This is a snippet from the story of his fight to keep the paper in the hands of its staffers:
The next morning, theCardinal would tell the story:
52 staff members signed statements declaring that “we, the undersigned staff members, are well satisfied with the present choice of executives. We demand that they be retained in their present positions. Any dismissal, without cause, we feel would be sufficient reason for our resigning our Cardinal posts and carrying the fight to the student body.”
A front-page editorial shouted: “Davis deserves his chance! Will [opposition leaders] John Witte, Dorothy Boettiger and Wade Mosby have the downright nerve to directly go against the wishes of the Cardinal staff? Will they violate the wishes of the student body? Will they subject merit to politics?”
The ouster — and the stated reasons for it —made headlines across the country. It became a symbol of the political struggles to come in the United States. This was to be a journalism war the likes of which professional journalism had not seen in some time. TheChicago Tribune — so despised by Davis as a freshman — now trumpeted his cause. TheMilwaukee Journal, theNew York Times, theChristian Science Monitor, all sent reporters to theCardinal staff meeting that day.
Davis posed for pictures with his supporters, then led them out of theCardinal‘s offices, on strike. The hell with the opposition, they shouted, they’d publish their own paper as the “true”Cardinal.
Thrilling words, but to publish a newspaper you need a printing plant. The “official”Cardinal quickly padlocked its presses and locked the strikers out of their offices in the student union. You need typewriters and telephones to report and write stories. The strikers had none. Reporters from other papers pestered Davis: Could he pull this off in less than 12 hours?
He swore at them, saying they’d be out if the paper was in longhand.
Davis and his staff settled on the East Side printing plant, a small operation near campus with outdated presses and mostly broken equipment, as their temporary base. That night the first “Staff Daily”Cardinal was published, its nameplate screaming “full campus support.” Davis and his staff of perhaps two dozen stayed late enough to pull it off the presses with their own hands.
On Saturday, May 1, 1938, three days after being fired, Davis walked up the campus’s main thoroughfare to its highest point, Bascom Hill, on which the university’s oldest buildings stand. When he reached the top and looked down, he saw more than a thousand students, almost 10 percent of the entire student body, calling out his name. Someone handed him a bullhorn. Asked in the present day to recall the speech he gave at the rally, he could only remember the way his voice echoed strangely through the amplifier.
Photographs of that mass meeting show Davis standing alone. He is hunched over the bullhorn in his hand, looking nervous and tentative. While it is hard to tell from the soaring rhetoric used in his stories that he was barely 20 years old, in the photographs, his youth and inexperience at leadership are easy to see. A group of young men stand off to his side, wearing white t-shirts and dark slacks. Hands on their hips, they stare him down.
You can order the bookhere.