Just two years after Lubbock was selected as its home, the newly established Texas Technological College opened its doors on Oct. 1, 1925, with a record-setting 770 students and “a few ‘stragglers' still coming in,” according to the first issue of the student newspaper, The Toreador, dated Oct. 3.
Many of that edition's articles focused on enrollment, specifically the disproportionate number of men to women on campus, and the opening ceremonies of the new college. But the newspaper's top story was full coverage of the Matadors' first football game – a 0-0 tie against McMurry College.
“This initial issue of The Toreador is the first sheet off the press and on the streets of Lubbock carrying a story of the Tech-McMurry game played this afternoon,” wrote editor Harry Montgomery. “Within two hours after the last whistle of the game sounded, football fans were reliving the battle from a complete play by play report appearing on this page. We expect to serve the students more efficiently each week by giving them the news of their school before it has become stale.”
Ninety years and two name changes later, the Toreador still records the history of Texas Tech University as it happens.
As Montgomery explained in the first issue of The Toreador, “It is well known, of course, that in the favorite sport of Spain and Old Mexico the ‘toreador' is an assistant to the ‘matador' or bull fighter – an aggravator you might say. So when the name Matador was suggested in keeping with the Spanish architecture and design of the college buildings, nothing seemed more appropriate as a name for the student publication than The Toreador.”
Robert Montemayor, editor from 1974 to 1975 and one of four Pulitzer Prize winners produced by the Texas Tech newspaper, expressed the same sentiment in 1987, writing: “There was a slogan that I borrowed and slightly altered, from another university, that I used on the masthead while I was editor: ‘It is this newspaper's duty to raise constructive hell.' It was my personal signature and attitude then and remains my attitude today.”
Among the editors most famous for stirring up controversy was Marshall Formby, who led The Toreador from 1931 to 1932. He established the strong editorial policy that would distinguish the paper during its early years, railing against boarding houses that required students to work in the house to pay for their meals and defending Texas Tech and its professors from a Lubbock preacher who accused the college of teaching atheism.
Ernest V. Joiner, editor from 1939 to 1940, was the only Toreador editor to be fired and reinstated twice because of his editorial stances. Hostile to any type of censorship, Joiner vigorously attacked many adverse school conditions, irritating a number of those in authority. A few months after his first reinstatement, he conducted a campaign in The Toreador to find out who was the “biggest horse's (neck).” After publishing the name of the winner – one of the deans – Joiner was re-fired in the resulting furor.
Charles Richards, editor from 1962 to 1963, remembers the most interesting story of his tenure happened by accident.
“My roommate, Max Jennings, and I were in the basement of the Student Union Building one Friday afternoon our senior year, playing bumper pool when we should have been busy getting the next edition of the Toreador out,” he said. “The student newspaper's adviser, Phil Orman, called on the telephone and was chewing us out, and we ‘explained' that we were actually doing surveillance on heavy gambling on pool games by students.
“Not only did he buy our story, he dispatched Toreador head photographer Cal Wayne Moore over to the SUB, where he covertly took pictures under a jacket he had over his arms. Phil also alerted campus security, which showed up and raided the games. The ‘accidental' story, a double byline by Max and me, covered the top half of the Toreador the next day, was an overnight sensation and won second place in the Southwestern Journalism Congress' annual writing contest for student newspaper in Texas and surrounding states.”
Over the decades, the paper increased in frequency from its weekly beginnings to semi-weekly in 1935 and then to three times a week in 1957. The first plans for a daily paper were announced in 1962, although the expansion came four years later. The Toreador's name was changed to The University Daily on Sept. 20, 1966, as part of Texas Technological College's push to become a university. The college would follow suit, becoming Texas Tech University on Sept. 1, 1969.
Richards, for one, didn't like the new name.
“I felt a sadness,” he said. “I liked the Spanish architecture around the campus and carrying the theme over to other things – the Matador Song; the Picadors, as freshman athletics teams were called back then; and The Toreador, along with other closely linked traditions such as the Masked Rider and the Saddle Tramps.”
Bill Dean, director of student publications from 1967 to 1978, remembers the University Daily stirred up the Lubbock community with a disturbing photograph taken during construction of the former Business Administration building in the late 1960s, which now houses the College of Media & Communication.
“Apparently the high school kids in Lubbock came out on campus and played around in the elevator shaft – kind of a crazy, dangerous thing,” he said. “A 15-year-old fell to his death one Sunday afternoon and the University Daily photographer – I don't know how he found out about it –got over there before the police and took a picture of it. So I got a call, ‘come back to campus, we're going to have a debate: Do we run that picture or not?' It wasn't a close-up, but it was definitely a body. There were arguments on both sides and I just said, ‘If we run it, my phone's going to ring off the wall in the morning and y'all will be home in bed.'
“They decided to run it and the reasoning was sound, I couldn't argue with it,” he said. “They said, ‘if the other kids who are doing this see this, maybe it will deter them from doing it,' which I thought was a pretty good argument. Of course, the phone did ring off the wall. People thought it was very insensitive for us to do it, but there was a perception that, as director of student publications, I could keep that picture out of the paper and that's not true. They sought my advice, but I didn't try to censor what they were doing.”
Andrea Watson, who started as a reporter in 1996 and returned as an adviser in 2002, said student journalists who work for the newspaper learn valuable lessons from both everyday and extraordinary situations.
“I think they just have this really unique place on campus, in that we have been here for all of these major milestones on the campus,” Watson said. “We have newspapers that document all these major historical milestones – the Kennedy assassination, Sept. 11, the Challenger – and all of our students have gotten to be a part of that because they've worked here and they've been, to some extent, forced into covering those situations, which is not always easy.”
Kippra (Kippie) Hopper, who began writing at the University Daily in 1979 and was editor from 1982 to 1983, remembers covering the public suicide of a student in the early 1980s.
“I got there before the ambulance did and it really shook me up,” she said. “My news editor at the time said, ‘Go home, get something to eat, take a nap, then come back and write it.' I was just so shaken up; it was my first dead body. But that prepared me for future stories like that.”
Dean recalled a major wakeup call he gave his students when they almost printed an erroneous story in the University Daily.
“One time there was an election in Lubbock, I think it was a bond election, and the student newspaper took a stand against it. They were going to print a story that a local broadcaster, R.B. McAlister, who owned channel 28, was involved in the deal, that he owned the property involved,” Dean said. “Something in the back of my mind told me ‘that's not right,' so I said, ‘now wait a minute; before you run that story, we're going to do some more checking on this.' And it turned out to be another McAlister. Some source gave them that information, but the lesson is: most sources have an ax to grind; most sources have an agenda. That should be understood. What you need to do is thoroughly vet what they tell you and make absolutely sure you can ascertain the truth of it. Don't just print it because somebody told you that.”
Hopper remembers winning a seventh place William Randolph Hearst Award for the story that would be one of her biggest regrets – that of the university president interfering in the process of admissions to get his daughter into medical school.
“I learned a lot on that story,” she said. “I had all kinds of off-the-record sources and I was encouraged so much by them to do the story. What I learned from the story is that it didn't feel good to me to go after someone. And looking back, it's one of my regrets that I kind of targeted someone. I was targeting the president, but his daughter got involved in a way I wish she hadn't. Everything was fact-checked, but I'll never forget that story. I was proud to win the award, but looking back, I just wish an innocent person hadn't gotten in trouble.”
She also learned about the power journalists have to help people.
“I'm kind of responsible for putting the elevator into the old journalism building,” Hopper said. “We had a student who was a staff member who had multiple sclerosis. He was in a wheelchair and could not walk up the stairs, so every day when he got to work, the guys had to go out there – it took four of them – and carry him up the stairs. He filed a lawsuit against Texas Tech for handicap access and after my stories ran – investigative stories following his lawsuit – they put in an elevator. So I'm proud of that; I felt like my stories made a difference.”
Sheri Lewis, an adviser in Student Media, said the training students receive there gives them an advantage for their future.
“The people who come through here are generally pretty young and just getting started. This may be their first job, so they're learning a lot of things,” Lewis said. “I think it serves them extremely well. I think they learn, more than anything, how to hit a deadline. I think they learn the logistics of how newsrooms work, how to deal with sources, how to know stories are going to fall through and how to go ‘oh, this one just landed in my lap and I'm so happy!' They learn the ups and downs.
“This is not an 8-to-5 kind of business; it's not a job where you go home at 5 p.m. and put it on the shelf and pick it back up the next morning, and I think that's what they learn,” she continued. “And they learn whether or not they're going to love doing this, which is a wonderful thing. I'd rather know now than, ‘Well, I've been doing this for five years and I really don't like it.' I think it gives them that opportunity as well. Most of the people who go through here probably start further down the road than people who have only had limited internship experience.”
For the then-Department of Mass Communications' 50th anniversary, it published the book “From Journalism to Mass Communications: 1937 to 1987” recalling the history of the department and its components. In its section on The Toreador, the book reads: “As a training ground for aspiring journalists and other mass communications majors, The Toreador and The University Daily have served well the Departments of journalism, Mass Communications and Student Publications, in addition to the University. Editors and reporters as well as advertising sales people have gone on to noteworthy positions in the media as well as other professions.”
Toreador alumni have been noteworthy. In addition to Montemayor, who won his Pulitzer Prize in 1984, others to win Pulitzers are Dennis Copeland, a two-time award winning photographer who worked for The University Daily in the mid-1970s; Tod Robberson, who worked at The University Daily in the late 1970s and early 1980s and won his Pulitzer in 2010; and Frank Bass, who worked for The University Daily in the early 1980s and won his Pulitzer in 1988.
Charles Richards' younger brother Don would follow in his footsteps, making them the only known siblings to serve as editor of the student newspaper. While Charles made journalism his lifelong career, Don went into journalism followed by a stint as press secretary for then-U.S. Rep. Kent Hance, who would later become Texas Tech chancellor, and then a 30-plus-year career as an attorney.
“It's a really neat feeling to have been associated with one of the truly great university newspapers,” said Don Richards, who was editor from 1971 to 1972. “It was a really fun and learning time in my life, and I cherish the memories.”
Lewis, now in her 18th year in Student Media, was struck recently by thought of how much she's seen during that time.
“I thought, ‘Gosh, I've been here for a chunk of that 90 years now,'” Lewis said. “For me, it's a source of pride. Not so much of anything I've done, but that the students have achieved this and been able to have it continue to grow and evolve and change and to know what it means to those students who come through here. It's exciting.”
In 2005, the newspaper was renamed The Daily Toreador to coincide with its 80th year of publication. The name was supposed to be a combination of the history of The Toreador and the standards of The University Daily, according to an Aug. 29, 2005, article in the paper.
“I'm glad The UD got changed to The Daily Toreador; it's so much more apropos for the Red Raiders and it goes back to its early beginnings,” Hopper said. “We should be proud at Tech to still have a newspaper that is funded and that's continued for all those 90 years. That's amazing and I think unusual compared to other universities. Often they've been cut for budget reasons and often they've been put under a college so faculty could monitor the writing and editing and stories that were selected, and we didn't have a monitor. We had a good person there to keep us out of legal trouble, but we had a hierarchy of editors and we just didn't make very many mistakes.”
90 years in
What is the legacy of the Toreador after all this time?
“I think it's a great experiment in journalism for young people,” Dean said. “And I say experiment because they're not professionals; they're striving to be professionals. The thing I learned through many situations is the world is not waiting for today's issue of The Daily Toreador. It's not going to have that huge an impact, but when you're personally involved in it and when people are mad at you for something that's in it, you have a feeling that it's much larger than that.”
Lewis said she thinks the Daily Toreador, like most media, is underappreciated.
“I don't know that the campus really looks at the publications from Student Media and goes ‘we can't live without these, we must, must have these!' But yet I think if the doors were shuttered and we went away, I think there would be a hole,” she said. “But I think that's true of media as a whole. If you listen and look and the media's always ‘that bad liberal media,' you get cussed and discussed all the time, but if we weren't there to be the watchdog, if we weren't there to report the good and the bad and the ugly, people wouldn't have the knowledge that they do. So I think the same holds true. I think we play a vital role on this campus that probably isn't recognized for what it is.”
Hopper believes it's one of the best college newspapers in the country and has been so for decades.
“What makes it unusual is that it remains an independent student-run publication, not a lab paper for a class where the teacher corrects everything,” she said. “I'm proud The Daily Toreador has remained an independent, student-run newspaper so people can train and learn and learn from their mistakes and develop their techniques of writing and types of writing – personality, news, advances, speech, all those things we covered – while learning on the job.”
Watson said one of the most meaningful parts of her job is seeing how seriously student journalists take their jobs.
“It's wonderful to see how invested they are and to see how invested all our students have always been, just how committed they really are and how many hours everybody's willing to put in that they don't really get money for necessarily,” she said. “And obviously, yes, they're doing it so they have something when they graduate to point to as work experience, which is completely understandable, but some of them go so far above and beyond just that aspect of it – and that's what's really exciting to see.”
Looking back on the last 90 years, Watson said she feels lucky to have been involved.
“There are obviously so many people who have been a part of that history over the years and who've gone on to huge major accomplishments,” she said. “I'm honored just to be a little tiny part of that and to know it's something that's been on this campus, basically since day one.”
It's something Hopper said the staff members recognized even at the time.
“We knew that was something we had to work very hard to keep its integrity and its respect and its reputation for being fair and honest and factual,” she said. “If you work on The Daily Toreador staff, you know that consumes your life, probably more than your classroom time, because we were so devoted.”
It's a sentiment shared across the decades.
Orlin L. Brewer, 1948-49 editor, wrote, “I will always be glad for having stumbled from the farm into the newsroom in a quest for a writing career. A newspaper, properly utilized, is a powerful tool for good in any community. A newsman, without such a medium, of course, would be nothing. Better to lose his arms and legs.”