By Ricky George
Reporter for The Lariat
On Nov. 8, 1900, The Lariat began corralling campus news, creating one of Baylor's oldest traditions.
'The Varsity Lariat published its first weekly edition, creating the journalism department's in-house 'work-study' program. The tradition has covered stories from 'cub-napping' of mascots in 1950 to 'the loose cannon' in 1994.
The first edition was four pages long and featured a profile of the Baylor Alumni President George W. McDaniel. Baylor defeated Austin College in football 11-0. Club updates for the philosophical club, historical club, glee club and the orchestra were front-page as well. inside stories included a story on the Baylor Female College.
Another weekly named The Baylor Weekly Leaf, published and edited by Jesse L. Nixon, was absorbed by the Varsity Lariat. Weekly Leaf subscribers received the Lariat until their subscriptions ran out.
The Lariat was created to inform alumni and the people of Texas of what was happening on campus. A yearly subscription cost $1, and six months was 50 cents. Currently, a Lariat subscription costs about $25 per year and $15 per semester.
No Rother's advertisements filled the pages, but the Hill Brothers Book Store offered Baylor students and faculty a 10 percent discount on 'everything but school books and supplies.'
Why name a newspaper after a piece of rope? According to the first edition, 'The Varsity Lariat appears on the scene to revive the aggressive, buoyant spirit of our sires and awaken the state to a realization of our possibilitie(sic).'
By the third edition, Varsity was dropped from the name, apparently over a trademark dispute, and the editors were less than pleased.
'The Lariat claims deserved distinction for having been the means of introducing a free use of the word Varsity on the Campus (sic). That word belongs to Baylor anyhow. The Lariat is strictly opposed to any monopoly, even when it is a name,' the editors stated.
An unwelcome mat was rolled out for the introduction of social fraternities to Baylor by The Lariat editors.
'Fraternities are to be established. The I Delta Flush and Eta Bita Pie chapters have already received their respective charters, but as let(sic) the great controversy between the I Tapa Kegas and the I Snatcha Bananas has not been settled, as the faculty will only permit three chapters to be organized the first year.'
Other editorials have included the proper method of executing the 'bear claw' spirit sign.
'It is not the spastic symbol it has become since it was first viewed by the student body. The proper claw is an outstretched arm with the fingers slightly curved to depict an actual bear claw.'
During February 1913, the graduating classes each edited an edition for The Lariat. The Baylor women published an edition Feb. 26, 1915. Featured on the front page was a story about a dinner given by domestic science students.
At that time, the editor and manager of The Lariat were elected by the student body.
By the 1950s, the paper's name changed to The Daily Lariat and published daily. The NoZe Brotherhood regularly published an article in The Lariat espousing their own brand of satire.
The kidnapping of the Baylor mascots, 'Barney' and 'Bailey' on Oct. 20, 1950, was published in an extra to the regular paper. The bruin twins were 'cub-napped' early Friday morning. Bailey was found near the Bear Pit, but Barney remained missing until 10 p.m. An anonymous telephone tip led Baylor Chamber of Commerce members to the bear.
Baylor football players were featured in The Lariat weekly. A cartoon likeness of the player was accompanied by a short description of the player and his abilities.
The Lariat has served as a training ground for hundreds of journalism majors. Trey Bourn, currently pursuing a master's degree in English at Mississippi State University, worked for The Lariat in 1991-92. He held the positions of assistant night news editor, assistant city editor, news editor and editor of the summer edition. Bourne also did some undergraduate work at the University of Mississippi for two years.
'Working at The Lariat gave me a good writing background,' Bourn said. 'It gave me a lot of confidence.'
Bourne worked as a sports writer in Columbus, Miss., for two years after graduating from Baylor.
'It usually takes people about two months to get used to working a newspaper, but when I started I hit the ground running because I had seen the newspaper in all aspects,' Bourne said.
Students do not appreciate their college newspapers enough, he added.
'It gives Baylor students a chance to see what goes on at the university that they wouldn't get from any other source,' Bourne said.
Bourne said the greatest part of working at the Lariat was the camaraderie with the staff and the advisor John Tisdale.
The biggest change Bourne said he saw came as he was preparing to graduate. The department of journalism upgraded the computers and began paginating the paper on campus instead of at the Waco Tribune-Herald.
The paper's newest dimension, the Electronic Lariat, started in the spring semester of 1994. The electronic news editor comes in at night and places the disks with the finished paper on the Baylor server. The electronic edition is available worldwide via the Internet.
Chairman of the journalism department Dr. Michael Bishop worked as a reporter in the fall of 1955 and as an editor in 1957 and 1958, while Baylor was still on the quarter system.
Bishop said the location of the Lariat is the biggest change he's seen over the years. In the 1950s, the news room was housed in a World War II barracks Baylor bought from the military. The building was located across the street from Kokernot Residence Hall, about where the Health Center currently stands. The Baylor Press, which printed the paper, was located just behind it.
Printed on a hand-fed flatbed sheet press, the stories were typed on manual typewriters and copied with a linotype machine. The cycle of production took about as long as today's paper, Bishop said. The paper was sent to the press at 9 p.m. to midnight, depending on the breaking stories.
The staff in the 1950s was selected by the Baylor Publications Board, chaired by Dr. Monroe S. Carroll, instead of the journalism department. The publications board was selected by the president. Currently, the advanced reporting class uses the Lariat as a laboratory. Paid staff writers and editors are selected by an interview process and Associated Press style test. Jason Ranton is currently the advisor for the newspaper.
The effectiveness of the editorial staff was dependent on their relationship with the president, Bishop said.
'Fortunately, Dr. (W.R.) White liked me,' Bishop said. 'I think it was because I was a preacher's son.'
Bishop said the Lariat is more important to Baylor than any other college newspaper to its respective campus.
'Baptists have been historically committed to individual freedoms in all areas,' he added. 'But we can become restrictive. The Lariat helps remind the Baylor family we need a free flow of information and exchange of ideas.'
All areas of student life have been addressed by the Lariat. Politics, activities and music have all been featured. Students' opinions on current issues have been published to give the student body a direct forum to express their feelings. Questions asked of students in the 1970s feature 'Students Speak' included opinions on the speech by former Israeli Gen. Moshe Dayan to the movie 'Jaws.'
College life often moves to music, no matter the genre. Groups from the Four Freshmen in the 1950s to pop stars Captain and Tenille to the alternative rock of Little Sister have been covered for their performances in the area.
Even the more unusual student activities have found their way into print. The NoZe Brotherhood ran regular articles at least into the late 1950s. Sporadic editorials by the secret fraternity were published into 1976. Other antics getting press coverage include making CBS news anchor Dan Rather an honorary NoZe during a speech he made on campus in 1976. The last front-page appearance by the NoZe was a photograph of the NoZe brothers painting President Robert B. Sloan Jr.'s nose with their traditional pink paint at his inauguration this year.
The Lariat was originally a weekly, but has undergone changes in its publishing schedule. It has published as many as six times a week, from Monday through Saturday. Currently, the Lariat publishes four days a week, from Tuesday through Friday.
Three years ago, it switched from broadsheet format to the smaller tabloid format. The Lariat may return to printing in broadsheet format in the future.
'We changed because the tabloid format was easier to produce with the technology at the time,' Bishop said. 'Now I don't think we have that limitation.'
Stepping beyond limitations, dedicated student staff and a commitment to the university are all part of the twine that have formed the Lariat for the last 95 years.
Copyright © 1995 The Lariat
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