A Brief History of The Brown and WhiteIn the days leading up to publication of the first issue of The Brown and White, Lehigh President Henry Coppee called William C. Anderson, Class of 1894, into his office in Packer Hall. Dr. Coppee had heard rumors of the new student publication and wanted to know why he hadn't been consulted.
Anderson, who was to become the newspaper's first editor in chief, recalled the conversation in a column written for an anniversary edition of the newspaper 40 years later. "It had never occurred to any of us that the University authorities might be interested in what we were doing or that we should ask them for approval," Anderson wrote. Dr. Coppee had learned of the secret meetings of the editorial board from his grandson, Joe Thurston, Class of 1896, who was assistant business manager.
For most of the campus community, the appearance of The Brown and White on Tuesday, January 16, 1894, was a complete surprise. Volume I Number I was four pages, 10 1/2 inches x 15 inches and arranged in four columns. Its purpose was clearly explained in a column on Page 1 under the headline "Greeting":
"In response to a general feeling that has existed for some time that Lehigh could support and really should have a publication appearing at least twice a week, if not daily, The Brown and White, in its initial number, now greets you.
"It will aim to put in the hands of its readers promptly all Lehigh news together with facts of general interest with regard to other colleges; special attention will be paid to accounts of all gatherings of alumni, and it is hoped that this will bring the alumni and undergraduates into a much closer union.
"So far as possible, a full list of notices in the nature of a calendar will be published, and all college organizations are invited to make use of this privilege. All alumni and friends as well as undergraduates, are invited to the use of these columns for correspondence and the publication of such matters as may be desirable."
The semi-weekly paper was to appear on Tuesday and Friday throughout the school year. Today, more than a century later, it's still published every Tuesday and Friday.
The early newspaper was set by hand and printed by the South Bethlehem Star, which later joined with the Bethlehem Times. Milton S. Grim, South Bethlehem's pioneer newspaper printer, helped the first Brown and White staff bring the newspaper into being. The staff would meet on the morning of publication day at Grim's shop at 8 E. Third Street and would write the copy that morning, handing it over to the printers who would set the type and publish the paper on a hand-operated press. Students paid $2 per year for a subscription.
Admittance to the newspaper's editorial board in those days was governed by a competition in which prospective editors wrote articles and editorial material during the first months of the school year, using pseudonyms. Competitors submitted an envelope with their pseudonyms on the outside and their real names inside. The competitors were judged on the number of articles, but also on "originality and value of ideas, accuracy, and literary merit."
The competition was difficult for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that competitors often had little grasp of the journalistic style of the times. The Brown and White editors eventually coaxed a member of the faculty into acting as an unofficial tutor to instruct the competitors on newspaper style.
Working on The Brown and White was a difficult endeavor, and the top job of editor in chief seems to have been particularly taxing. An article in The Brown and White's 40th anniversary issue in 1934 noted that 18 of the first 30 editors in chief resigned before the end of their one-year terms.
World War I had a large impact on The Brown and White, which was forced to change its production size and quality of paper before later downsizing its operation by 50 percent to a weekly publication published on Wednesdays. An editorial in the Sept. 18, 1918, issue explained the changes:
"Due to the scarcity of labor, and due to the necessary conservation of newsprint paper, The Brown and White will appear, for the present at least, only once a week ... This step has been taken as a patriotic one. Therefore, we hope that the student body will make an effort to support the paper more than ever. Every subscription is needed."
Despite surviving World War I and continuing to grow, the organization of The Brown and White made the job of the editors increasingly difficult. Curtis D. MacDougall, Lehigh instructor of journalism, wrote in the 1928 Brown and White stylebook, "The weaknesses of the old system were legion. The editors had difficulty in exercising their prerogatives once the competitions were over. Staff meetings were infrequent and were poorly attended. The managing editor was forced to give assignments by telephone, and the reporting was untrustworthy. Most of the paper each issue was written by the assistant editor in charge. With such a loose and uncertain organization, it is remarkable that The Brown and White attained the degree of merit that it did."
With these structural problems in mind, Lehigh President Charles R. Richards asked MacDougall to submit a plan to revise The Brown and White. The system that was adopted radically changed the publication, placing it under control of a new class: English 49. Any student could take The Brown and White course for one academic credit. A board of publications, with recommendations from the instructor, the retiring editor in chief and the retiring managing editor, elected the new editor in chief, managing editor and the two news editors.
A new type of financing also became available to the publication through the use of the student activities fee which was assessed to all students, making them, in effect, all subscribers to The Brown and White. The reorganized and redesigned Brown and White appeared Feb. 10, 1928.
In essentially this form, The Brown and White has continued through another World War and other major events, never ceasing publication. Perhaps the most enduring quality of The Brown and White is its ability to adapt to times and situations. During World War II, when campus nearly shut down and dorms and fraternities were emptied to house troops, The Brown and White inaugurated a weekly section called GI Lehigh, written with help from the soldiers.
In recent times, dramatic changes in newspaper production technology have altered both the look of The Brown and White and the jobs of its editors. Editorial staff members write, edit and lay out all of the stories on computers and send the final copy to the printer as a computer file. Since the early 1990s, there has been an online version of the newspaper.
Although its size, format and production methods have changed, The Brown and White remains a student-run newspaper whose staff members decide which stories to cover and formulate editorial policy free of interference from faculty or administration. Its business staff raises most of the funds required for the newspaper's operations by soliciting advertising and working with customers to create their ads. And The Brown and White continues striving to fulfill its original purpose of providing the Lehigh Community with "All the Lehigh News First."
This brief history is based on the one written by Marc Goldstein, Class of 1994, who as editor in chief of The Brown and White produced a centennial booklet commemorating the publication's first 100 years.