At Michigan State University, there have been campus newspapers published almost as long as the university has existed. The Bubble (UA.12.7.16) was published in 1868 by Frank S. Burton (Class of 1868) and was intended to be a humorous look at campus life. Another early campus publication was The Holcad (UA.12.7.2), a magazine-like publication with fiction, news, editorial comment, and gossip. It was first published on March 10, 1909. In 1925, The Holcad became Michigan State News (later shortened to The State News) and was responsible to the College Press and paid for by student fees.
Nearly as long as there has been a campus newspaper, there have been alternative newspapers. These “alternatives” have generally arisen over differences in opinion between the news staff and students at large but occasionally have come about due to differences internally over personnel or ideology. Often, the papers were created just as an outlet for humor. These publications generally only lasted a year or so; the creators either graduated or moved on and the publication lost its momentum.
One alternative newspaper, The Spectre (UA.12.7.6), was published in 1957 by students Thomas Payne, Peter Zenger, Samuel Adams and John Fenno. Its November 18 issue discussed the student privilege of wearing clothes. Another parody newspaper was The Eczema (UA.12.7.23) begun by R. J. McCarthy in 1913 and continued into 1937 by the fraternity, Pi Delta Epsilon. This paper was similar to today’s The Onion. Much of the parody was related to events occurring on campus.
On a more serious note, The Paper (UA.12.7.7) was started by disillusioned State News staffer and journalism student Michael Kindman in late 1965. The Paper focused on the Vietnam War and the growing counter culture. Less than a decade later, The Grapevine Journal (UA.12.7.3) was created on a typewriter and pasted together by students Abdul M. Jamal and Karen L. Fitzgerald in June 1971. Two thousand copies were printed of the first issue. The newspaper continued to grow and by September 1972 had become the largest African-American student paper in the United States. Publication of The Grapevine Journal ended in 1975.
During 1984-1985, The Michigan State Times was published by Editor Robert Gardella, a journalism student in the class of 1986. Politically to the right of The State News, it was an independent, student-run “non-partisan news and opinion” newspaper.
In 1989, M. L. Elrick (Class of 1990, State News Staff 1987-1989)1, started the University Reporter-Intelligencer (uR-I) newspaper (UA.12.7.44) with encouragement from a friend (Angie Carozzo) after being overlooked by the State News Board of Trustees for the editor position even though fully supported by the SN staff. In his Spartan Saga interview, M. L. Elrick said, “a lot of people could have said, “What a drag,” but I went out and started my own paper with some friends of mine. And we had people who volunteered their time and effort to work for us, to sell ads, to write stories, to make art, to take photographs.” The uR-I was a free weekly newspaper that reached a circulation of 10,000 and was “intended as a weekly forum for the discussion of topics crucial to ensuring MSU’s position as an incubator of new and revolutionary ideas, dreamt up by the minds giving our community its character and verve.” M. L. Elrick was joined by Tresa Baldas (Class of 1990 and now a reporter at Detroit Free Press ), David Stearns (Class of 1989 and now Director of Communications at The B Team) and others to provide edgy reporting on topics still relevant today on campus: cost of education; abortion; LGBTQ issues; race relations; campus crime and more. The paper also was a great source for reviews of recently released music and movies as well as local entertainers. Local entertainer reviews included The Doe Boys; The Deans; Wayouts; Elvis Hitler; The Lime Giants; The Front; and many others.
After Elrick’s graduation, Tim Silverthorn took over as uR-I editor for the fall 1990 semester but was unable to sustain the papers publishing. He’s now an Academic Technology Consultant at the University of St. Thomas.
Thanks to financial support from Mike Johnston (Class of 1993), the complete run of the uR-I is now online at the MSU Archives On the Banks of the Red Cedar website. Mike wrote us, “It (the uR-I) was distributed in the dorms, but wasn’t officially sanctioned by the university and was a hilarious thorn in the side of The State News for one entertaining year.”
To learn more about these alternative newspapers, visit the MSU Archives in Conrad Hall.
Written by Ed Busch, electronic records archivist
- L. Elrick later worked for the Detroit Free Press and was one of the two reporters who broke the text message scandal that brought down Kwame Kilpatrick, which led to his 2008 resignation from office and criminal conviction. This work was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting. He is also co-author of “The Kwame Sutra: Musings on Lust, Life and Leadership from Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.” Elrick now reports for Fox 2 TV in Detroit.