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ASU campus newspaper commemorates 120 years

Read the actual stories from State Press history mentioned in this article.

Over the course of 120 years and five name changes, The State Press has covered local, University and national news while the Valley developed from a small rural community to the metropolis it is today.

Originally titled the Normal Echo, ASU’s first student newspaper debuted on the back page of what is now the East Valley Tribune on October 18, 1890.

At that time, ASU was still a small teachers school called the Tempe Normal School, and the Echo filled only a portion of the back page of the weekly paper.

With new editors each week, the Normal Echo aimed “to give a weekly digest of all affairs connected with the Normal School, to the end that friends of the institution, the relatives of students, and the general public may make us a short visit without moving from their offices or sitting room,” according to one of the first issues published.

In 1906, the Normal Echo separated from the Tribune and became ASU’s first independent student newspaper, the Tempe Normal Student.

The Tempe Normal Student was published as a four-page weekly tabloid covering stories like President Theodore Roosevelt becoming the first U.S. president to speak at the school in 1911 and Arizona achieving statehood in 1912.

In 1925, 19 years after its debut, the Tempe Normal Student was again renamed after the state Legislature authorized the school to offer a bachelor of education degree and change its name to the Tempe State Teachers’ College.

Although the newspaper was then called the Tempe Collegian, its name was shortened to The Collegian in 1930.

In 1931, the school offered its first journalism courses, and the newspaper fell under the operation of the journalism school.

A few years later, the school and newspaper were renamed yet again, and the Arizona State Press was born, now serving the Arizona State Teachers College.

When the college began offering bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees in 1945, the school name was shortened to Arizona State College, a name that would prove difficult to change 10 years later, even after reaching full recognition as a university.

The final name change to Arizona State University came after several years of petitioning the state Legislature, followed by a hard-fought referendum that was placed on the ballot in November 1958.

While the passage of Proposition 200 changed the name of the school, The State Press retained its title and produced one of the most memorable issues in recent history.

Law professor Grady Gammage Jr. has been associated with ASU for most of his life because his father, Grady Gammage Sr., was the University’s longest standing president.

“There’s one issue of The State Press that really stands out in my mind, and that was when Proposition 200 passed, granting university status to ASC (Arizona State College),” Gammage said. “There was a large picture of my father making the announcement on the front page, and in later years, that State Press was done in a 20-foot-tall enlargement as a homecoming display in the early 1960s.”

Beginning in 1964, The State Press became a daily newspaper, published Tuesday through Friday.

During the 1970s, a national movement to separate collegiate newspapers from academic departments and direct faculty supervision landed The State Press under the supervision of an advisory board, where it remains today.

In 1984, The State Press added a Monday edition, bringing publication up to five days a week.

“The State Press had always been four days a week and it bothered me on Monday mornings to have no news, especially with weekend sports. So when I ran for editor I proposed a Monday edition,” said Len Munsil, the editor at the time. “I figure I messed up the weekend for generations of future staffers.”

Itule’s tenure

A year later, Bruce Itule took over as director of Student Media and transformed The State Press into the newspaper it is today, according to students who worked with him.

“He really laid the groundwork for making it more than just a campus paper, but making it a key player in Arizona journalism,” State Press alumna Stephanie Paterik said. “He was a really old-school, hard-nosing journalist, but he was The State Press. He really was ASU journalism back then.”

Itule, who now teaches journalism at UA, said the organization grew substantially during his 16 years as director.

“During my tenure, The State Press went from a relatively small operation to the cornerstone of one of the largest student media operations in the country,” he said. “At its circulation peak, we were printing more than 20,000 newspapers a day and our annual advertising sales surpassed $2 million.”

Today The State Press prints 13,500 copies Monday through Thursday and 6,750 on Fridays.

“I critiqued The State Press every day. I used blue ink because I thought red ink would make students feel too much like they were in a class, and I never wanted staffers to think The State Press was a class project or part of the journalism program,” Itule said. “Somewhere along the way, someone started calling it the ‘blue copy’ and the name stuck. I was highly critical each day, but if I missed any day, people would raise hell.”

Although Itule was a tough critic, Paterik said his reviews were what pushed staffers to improve as journalists, propelling the quality of the newspaper forward.

“No matter how early we got into the newsroom, the blue copy was waiting for us on the managing editor’s desk, and on the top Bruce always wrote ‘it’s a great day for journalism’ or ‘it’s a terrible day for journalism,’” Paterik said. “We lived or died by the blue copy. If it was a terrible day for journalism, no one had a good day. If you got praise from Bruce it was great, and if not, you spent the whole day thinking about how to not repeat the same mistake.”

Paterik was on staff from 1999 to 2001, and said she vividly remembers covering the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I think what I was supposed to do that day was write about body piercing trends or something like that, and suddenly that was a lot less important,” she said. “It was this huge story that rocked every news agency. We weren’t even out in the real world, per se, and we were thrown into this real news story.”

At the time, Paterik was writing for State Press Magazine, but had experience in news writing and wanted to help with the news coverage.

“That’s one day that definitely stands out in my mind. I think for a lot of us that were there it solidified our choice to pursue careers as journalists,” she said.

‘The dungeon’

Working for The State Press was not all hard work.

Tony Carrillo, creator of the nationally syndicated comic “F Minus,” got his start at The State Press, and said there were definitely perks to being on staff.

“I remember hanging out downstairs (in the newsroom) a lot. It was a fun place to be, and it was a good place to hang out for information,” he said. “Anytime something was happening on campus, we were the first ones to know. If there was free pizza on Hayden Lawn, we were the first ones there.”

But the newsroom in the basement of the Matthews Center wasn’t always the cleanest place to spend time.

“I remember we were down there just talking about how nasty the newsroom was one day,” Carrillo said. “We didn’t know if we had permission or not, but we decided to paint the whole place blue.”

The one window in the newsroom faces a wall that blocks any actual view to the outside world, and Carrillo said the staff was tired at looking at the design on it, so students repainted it at the same time.

“It used to just say news with a bunch of arrows and looked really stupid,” he said. “So I crawled out there and started painting a cityscape, but I had to crouch the whole time because there really wasn’t enough room to stand all the way up. I was crouching for two hours and I just got so tired that I didn’t really finish it.”

Paterik also remembered trying to make the newsroom more homey during her years on staff.

“We called it ‘the dungeon’ because it hadn’t really changed I think since the 1970s. It was really bare bones newsroom,” she said. “We had this old rickety couch that was maroon and stained and had been there for decades. We had to lobby for months and months to get the couch replaced.”

The staff finally convinced the advisory board to put money toward a futon, which still sits in the newsroom’s sports office.

Spending so much time in an environment so filled with character led to a special relationship between staffers.

“It was a unique bond and I think a lifelong one for a lot of us,” Paterik said. “I met my husband there and I’m still in contact with many others I worked with. I can think of several other State Press couples that are married and have kids now, too.”

Moving to new media

Kristin Gilger, associate dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, took over the position of Student Media director in 2002 amid a financially difficult time.

“It was a not a good time economically. The classified ads department was in trouble. We had a lot of expenses and not a lot of funds,” she said. “We did reduce the size of the publication at one point, but we protected the students as much as we could, and they did some great work. We won lots of awards during that time.”

One award obtained under Gilger’s direction was “Best Affiliate Website” in the country.

“One of the things that happened while I was there is we really started moving to the Web,” Gilger said. “It had existed before, but we revamped and started selling ads and converging with TV. It was just the baby steps for that, but we really did start it.”

Today, the director of Student Media oversees the production of The State Press, State Press Television, State Press Magazine and

Jason Manning, a former politics editor at, currently holds the position and has been working with staff from all divisions of Student Media to coordinate coverage efforts.

“What started under me with the Web has really come to fruition under him,” Gilger said. “I think The State Press has been ahead of most student media organizations, definitely, and even some professional media organizations in figuring out the new media world.”

With its continuous growth and multimedia approach, Gilger said The State Press has become a great source of information for the entire ASU community and beyond.

“The State Press has such a long and incredible history that it’s a trusted source for students. They know they can go there to get the stories about what’s going on in the community and on campus,” she said.

‘Part of this institution’

The State Press, even in its earliest days as the Normal Echo has also always included strong sports coverage.

“I think the student newspaper has always done a great job following all sports at ASU,” said director of Sun Angel Foundation development and past football head coach Frank Kush, who has been at ASU on and off since 1955. “It really brings the intimate relationship with the coaches and players to the student body, and it makes a difference in our following and support.”

One of the biggest sports events to happen at ASU was the Sun Devils’ defeat of the Nebraska Huskers in 1996.

The win happened to fall on the same day as the dedication of the football field to Kush.

“Maybe ASU should throw a big bash for Frank Kush every game at Sun Devil Stadium,” The State Press wrote the next day.

Kush said he has seen The State Press cover sports and news events very effectively over the years.

“I think it’s remarkably informative for the students because most students don’t have any kind of media info from outside the University,” he said. “The State Press is part of this institution and I think the student body that runs it has the loyalty to follow up on stories. It gives students and staff and others in Tempe a lot of insight about the University and I think they do a remarkable job.”

Read the actual stories from State Press history mentioned in this article. Reach the reporter at

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