Connect with Isthmus:         Newsletters 

Friday, October 31, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 41.0° F  Light Rain and Breezy
Share on Google+
It Doesn't End with Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal
By Allison Hantschel, (Heritage Books)

The publication of this book could hardly be more timely, considering the rapid changes that the newspaper industry is undergoing. The author, former Daily Cardinal editor Allison Hantschel, was part of the crew of diehards that yanked the Cardinal back from financial ruin during a seven-month shutdown in 1995, so she's certainly suited to the task of unearthing the paper's illustrious past. With many interviews and much archival material, this history of the paper's 115 years reads not as a plodding chronology but more like a roller coaster, with each decade featuring its own fight for the paper's existence.

Founded in 1892 by a student miffed at the university's lack of a journalism curriculum, the Cardinal began with the twin engines that would power it through the 20th century: financial and editorial independence from the university, plus a completely student-run, come-one-come-all workplace that had (and still has) staffers teaching each other in a real-life newsroom.

While this open structure afforded the paper the freedom to print whatever it wished, it also left it vulnerable to interlopers who got elected to the Cardinal board and began firing editors. Hantschel gives remarkably even-handed treatment to the nefarious forces that wished to see the paper muzzled, if not shut down, whether they are upstate legislators, anti-Semitic frat boys or those outraged at the paper's defenses of "free love."

While this is clearly a tale told with passion, Hantschel doesn't paper over the Cardinal's endemic snottiness. Many an alum marvels at how a bunch of arrogant kids could make such a ruckus (and a profit) with no "adult" supervision. Self-righteous hell-raisers, to be sure - but with deadlines.

No doubt the Cardinal's hardest punches were delivered by a series of Vietnam-era articles written by Jim Rowen, who uncovered the UW's complicity in military projects at its Army Math Research Center. Despite Rowen's denials, these stories played a part in the infamous bombing of Sterling Hall (two of the four accused bombers were Cardinal staffers) and the killing of a young physicist. Hantschel captures these fevered times quite well, and documents the paper's radicalism, which lingered for a decade more.

While nothing could top that story in terms of sociopolitical drama, I wish Hantschel had brought forth more examples of the Cardinal's other journalistic triumphs and peppered them throughout the book instead of rolling out a few in a chapter near the end. Nevertheless, as a former Cardinal editor myself, I expected this history to be a manifesto. Instead, it's a clear-eyed story of a scrappy little paper that not only changed the UW, but shaped college journalism itself.

Share on Google+

Log in or register to comment

Select a Movie
Select a Theater

Promotions Contact us Privacy Policy Jobs Newsletters RSS
Collapse Photo Bar