Eighty years ago, as this university celebrated its second anniversary, student pleas for a school newspaper gave birth to The University News, which first published on Oct. 4, 1927.
“The long looked-for day has arrived,” a staff writer said on the front page. “The University of Miami has a student newspaper of its own.”
But it was short-lived. After 22 issues, there were no funds and the publication went out of business.
Then, on Oct. 15, 1929, Jack Thompson became the first editor in chief of a new paper, The Miami Hurricane.
Twenty-six years later, in 1955, John Softness (A.B. ’55) began his tenure as editor.
“I really didn’t know that I could [write] until I got a chance to write for The Hurricane,” Softness said.
He attributes much of his success as a public relations executive and speechwriter directly to the student-run newspaper.
Softness learned the art of “newspapering” by physically involving himself in the publication process. Every Friday, the editorial staff would meet and go to the printing press.
“We actually manufactured the newspaper every week,” he said.
Softness remembers everyone from students to administration working as a team to maximize productivity when he was editor.
“When I was there, the connection of all the people in publications was better than a fraternity,” he said. “If I’m making it sound too ‘Pollyanna-ish,’ that’s the way it was.”
The Rev. Skipper Flynn, managing editor from 1963 to 1967, said every line of type was hot metal when it came out of the machine and every line was handset into the frame of the page.
In 1965, Flynn, who was managing editor during the John F. Kennedy assassination, proposed to move printing from Parker Printing, in Coconut Grove, to The Miami Herald’s presses.
“I did some investigating and came to the decision that we were being radically overcharged,” Flynn said.
In the long run, he said, The Hurricane would potentially save millions of dollars by switching to The Herald.
Because of Flynn’s dedication, Henry King Stanford, then president of the university, personally awarded him a full scholarship for his dedication to the school and his passion for The Miami Hurricane.
Passion was the cornerstone of The Hurricane during the 1960s, a decade marked by political activism and controversy. With Vietnam War protests in full stride and the Civil Rights movement well on its way, Hurricane editors had their hands full.
“The war was certainly a major media issue, but on campus the story was more about the student activism,” said Daniel Barber, who was editor in chief in ’68.
Both Barber and Flynn remember protests on the UC Rock. Campus was filled with people passing out tie-dyed shirts and singing John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” Barber said.
The Vietnam War hit close to home for many students, Flynn said. “In the Sigma Chi house, we marked the deaths of two of our brothers.”
Current Miami Herald business editor Lisa Gibbs was editor in chief of The Hurricane in 1987. Twice a week the editorial staff went to The Herald to print the newspaper.
“We watched our stories come out on these massive machines,” she said. “It was fascinating.”
In the ensuing years Gibbs was editor, Hurricane staffers have changed the paper from broadsheet to tabloid, modified the entertainment section from Life and Arts to EDGE and learned to create the paper digitally using Adobe InDesign.
Still, some things about the newspaper never change.
“The heart and soul [of The Hurricane] was us sitting around the newsroom until midnight, writing editorials we were passionate about,” Gibbs said. “That doesn’t go away.”
Joshua Newman may be contacted at email@example.com.
Who else is turning 80?
Jerry Stiller: Ben Stiller’s father, known for his role as Frank Costanza on “Seinfeld,” celebrated his birthday on June 8.
Christopher Plummer: The man who played Captain von Trapp in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” will celebrate his birthday on Dec. 13.
Roger Moore: Recognizable from his role as James Bond in “Live and Let Die,” “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Octopussy,” Moore celebrated his birthday on Oct. 14.
Rosemary Harris: Aunt May from the Spiderman movies celebrated her birthday on Sept. 19.
Harry Belafonte: The concert singer, recording artist and movie star, who contributed memorable songs such as “Day-O” to the movie “Beetlejuice,” celebrated his birthday on March 1.
– Karyn Meshbane