The Daily Californian: 40 years of independence

Toni Martin/Courtesy
Toni Martin (center), the first Editor-in-Chief of the independent Daily Californian, sits with Jim Branson (left) and Trish Hall (right) in a staff meeting.

The Daily Californian proclaimed its independence from the campus 40 years ago today, months after a controversial editorial angered UC Berkeley officials into firing the editors responsible for its publication.

The front-page editorial, published May 11, 1971, encouraged readers to “Take Back (People’s) Park” and tear down the fence that the UC Board of Regents had put up around it. The piece divided the Daily Cal’s staff and readers while sparking criticism from then-chancellor Roger Heyns, the UC Board of Regents and then-governor Ronald Reagan.

“This (editorial) was following years of bickering and fighting with administration about what we wrote and how we wrote it,” said then-editor in chief John Emshwiller. “It was the last straw towards independence.”

Emshwiller said the Daily Cal wanted to commemorate the riot that ensued after the fence’s installation in May 1969.

“The question arose of what we should do,” Emshwiller said. “We thought about it with half a mind and our managing editor, James Blodgett, sat down and knocked off this editorial.”

The Senior Editorial Board voted to run the editorial 3-2, with Emshwiller as one of the dissenters.

According to Emshwiller, the board was not expecting the editorial to be as controversial as it would become in the days and weeks following May 11.

“We had gotten used to the notion that people didn’t read the Daily Cal,” Emshwiller said. “But they read this one, and then the day comes and turns into a riot.”

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The Daily Californian changes to keep up with media shift

By Alisha Azevedo 

In the 40 years since The Daily Californian first declared its independence, the paper has worked to remain an autonomous and financially stable news source for the Berkeley community, despite falling advertising income and increasing costs.

Developing a strong online presence, utilizing social media and fundraising have become greater priorities for the paper as it works to keep up with a changing media industry.

The paper launched a student life blog in November 2006, and the publication’s online presence has continued to increase. Most recently, the Daily Cal Twitter account reached over 4,000 followers on Sept. 15, 2011.

However, the shifting emphasis from print to online news has challenged the newspaper, mirroring the current obstacles the industry faces.

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Reprint: It’s your newspaper now

Toni Martin, the first Editor-in-Chief of the independent Daily Californian, stands with her staff in the Daily Californian newsroom. This photo was taken in 1971, the first year of the Daily Cal's independence. - Toni Martin/Courtesy

The following is a reprint of The Daily Californian’s editorial, published 40 years ago tomorrow, declaring independence from the university after months of conflict surrounding a controversial editorial the paper published about People’s Park.

Tuesday, September 28,1971

The Daily Californian is now an independent newspaper.

We are operating as a non-profit staff-controlled corporation. For funding, we will depend on our advertising and subscription revenue–without any subsidy from student fee money. We have left our campus offices and will operate out of new headquarters at 2490 Channing (corner of Telegraph), third floor.

Our independence means that we are free from control by the Board of Regents or the Chancellor’s handpicked Publishers’ Board.

Independence, of course, places greatly heightened responsibility on our shoulders, since we will no longer be under the protective apron of the University. But it also affords us an exciting opportunity to create a newspaper worthy of the campus.

Full editorial

Editor’s note: It’s still your newspaper

 By Tomer Ovadia

Four decades ago, The Daily Californian published an editorial that sparked a heated controversy and prompted its Publishers Board to attempt to bring its publication to a halt.

The possibility of the students’ voice being silenced was real, and the editor in chief asserted at the time that it “seriously threaten(ed) the future of any student newspaper on this campus.”

In an editorial published forty years ago tomorrow titled “It’s Your Newspaper Now,” the staff announced its independence and noted that while it would “no longer be under the protective apron of the University,” independence would afford “us an exciting opportunity to create a newspaper worthy of the campus.”

Forty years later, we once again face one of the most significant challenges in our 140-year history. While independence has allowed us to truly pave our own path, it has exposed us over the past several years to shifts in the journalism industry, as newspapers everywhere suffer from plummeting revenue and race to embracing new mediums of communication.

But it also provides UC Berkeley students an exciting opportunity to set a new course and reinvent journalism. Who better to tackle these challenges than a passionate and intelligent student body with a diverse set of abilities, set in a vibrant community bustling with activity?

For students interested in making a difference, we invite you to join us. Our paper rises and falls with our successes and shortcomings. For our readers who seek more engaging content, just as in 1971, “we need your ideas to tell us what we can do to serve the campus community better.”

The Daily Cal is still your newspaper. We wake up each and every morning asking ourselves how we can better serve you. Countless students have worked tirelessly to deliver quality, independent information to you over the last four decades. With your help, we can continue to do so for many decades to come.

Tomer Ovadia is the editor in chief and president.