The Daily Texan, student newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin, began as a weekly in 1900, when two privately owned campus newspapers, the Calendar and the Ranger, were joined to form the Texan, with Frederick Garland (Fritz) Lanham as the first editor. In 1904 the student assembly took charge of operating the paper, and by 1907 the Texan was published twice a week. A student referendum in 1913 made the Texan a daily newspaper, and its first issue as such appeared on September 24, 1913; on that date the Daily Texan became, according to its editors, the first college daily in the South. The student body elected an editor and a managing editor annually, and the paper supported itself by selling advertisements and by collecting part of an optional fee charged by the Students' Association in support of student government and publications. A student-faculty conference in 1921 led to the formation of Texas Student Publications, Incorporated, a nonprofit organization that was to issue, publish, and distribute the Daily Texan, the Longhorn Magazine, the Cactus (yearbook), and such other publications that might in the future be authorized. The Daily Texan fostered both the university song "The Eyes of Texas" and the name "Longhorns" for the university football team. Over the years the newspaper, with the aid of national news-gathering sources, provided the university community with coverage of local, state, national, and international news. By 1925 the newspaper was eight pages long and had a circulation of 5,500. The Texan occasionally took editorial stands that were unpopular in many areas of the state, as well as with some legislators, university administrators, and regents. The resulting controversies have led to a colorful history.
The original TSP charter provided for student domination of its board of directors and guaranteed that the student editors of the various publications would play an important role in policy-making. The charter contained two clauses, however, that would later lead to controversy: the first, included by law, limited the corporation to a fifty-year charter, leaving it vulnerable to renewal difficulties; the other clause provided that in the event of the corporation's dissolution, its assets would revert to the University of Texas Board of Regents (see UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SYSTEM). During the 1930s the charter for TSP was revised several times, in effect giving the board of regents the authority to approve changes in the charter and subjecting all actions taken by the TSP board of directors to the approval of the regents. The Texan saw relatively little controversy in the 1940s, primarily because everyone was so much in favor of the war effort. In the mid-1950s, however, the paper's editor, Willie Morris, took outspoken stands against segregation and a Congressional bill to lower taxes on the oil and gas industries. His response to censorship was to print blank space where a controversial editorial was to have run or to substitute a conspicuously innocuous piece with a title like "Let's Water the Pansies." In the summer of 1956, after Morris's departure on a Rhodes Scholarship, the regents changed the student editor seats on the TSP board to nonvoting positions. Then in 1963 the regents changed the editorship of the Texan from an elected to an appointed position; in the face of strong opposition from the students, however, the decision was reversed the next year. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Texan sometimes published controversial editorials, including ones critical of the country's involvement in Vietnam and also of university regent Frank C. Erwin. The battle that developed between Erwin and the Texan received state and national coverage, including an account in the New York Times. When the TSP charter came up for renewal in 1971, negotiations between the board of regents and the board of TSP eventually led to a compromise in which the assets of TSP (which were estimated by some to be as high as $600,000) became the property of the university. Student publications would continue to be published as an auxiliary enterprise of the university. In the 1980s and 1990s the editorship of the Texan remained a position elected by the student body; however, the editor's control of the paper was limited to the editorial page, while the rest of the paper was the responsibility of the managing editor, an appointed position.
The Daily Texan has been a consistent standout among college newspapers in the United States and has won several prestigious awards, including the Pacemaker Award from the Associated Collegiate Press in 1965, 1969, 1971, and 1985 and the Gold Crown Award from Columbia Scholastic Press in 1984, 1989, and 1990. Many of its editors and other staff members have gone on to become widely respected writers and news professionals, among them author Willie Morris; journalists Bill Moyers, Walter Cronkite, Larry Price, and Dan Malone; producer Mary Walsh; news executives Karen Elliott House, Lisa Beyer, and Deborah Howell; editors Mark Morrison and John Reitz; and cartoonists Sam Hurt and Berke Breathed. In the early 1990s the Texan had a circulation of 32,000 in the fall and spring and 21,000 during the summer sessions. It employed 250 to 300 persons during the fall and spring semesters, and 125 to 150 persons in the summer.