DI turns 150: A UI journalism tradition celebrates a major milestone.

printing presses at the University of Iowa

This summer marks the 150th anniversary of
The Daily Iowan student newspaper, an achievement underscored by vigilance, innovation, tenacity, and a commitment to the journalistic values of the First Amendment. The Iowa Journalist commemorates this special occasion by featuring a few significant moments from the DI legacy: articles that have addressed controversy, marked disaster, noted history, and grappled with breaking (and sometimes heartbreaking) news.

Since 1886, DI students have dedicated their college careers to investigating Iowa City and questioning the country’s social conscience. This coverage spans three centuries: from the dawn of the 20th century to the Roaring Twenties, from the Great Depression to world wars, from the civil rights movement to the age of terrorism to the information superhighway. On the following pages, the IJ looks back at some unforgettable moments in these decades of news coverage.

The excellent journalism the staff did in a few short hours under the most stressful of situations is all the more extraordinary when you realize it was done in the era before the Internet, cell phones, and digital cameras. The resulting ‘Extra’ was comprehensive coverage of an unprecedented event that found staffers out on street corners passing out their own work.”  

—Editor John Kenyon/1991-92 
on the DI’s coverage 
of the Gang Lu shooting


World War II  

In 1939, World War II was officially announced. Over 30 countries and more than 100 million people watched the battle between the Axis and the Allies. While war ravaged Europe, The Daily Iowan newsroom covered the unfolding drama. Headlines, both original and borrowed from the Associated Press, declared: “Axis Bombers Attack England” and “Hitler Appeals to the People.” The paper prominently displayed recruitment postings along news articles. In that era, classrooms emptied as UI students enlisted. Much of the DI’s coverage was devoted to students and faculty both embarking and returning home. A generation of Hawkeyes were forever changed by the Second World War, a legacy still felt today by veterans and their families.


MLK at the IMU

The emerging civil rights movement in the United States took center stage at the State University of Iowa on a November night in 1959. That evening, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a historic address, “The Future of Race Relations in America,” to an overflowing crowd in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union. At his Nov. 11, 1959, appearance in Iowa City, Dr. King recounted the progress that African Americans had accomplished at that point but stressed the obstacles that remained. He spoke of the growing backlash against efforts to integrate society, notably from the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizens’ Councils. The next morning, DI reporter Marcia Bolton opened her article with a poignant question posed to Dr. King from crowd: “What can an Iowa Negro do about the subtle discrimination he meets everyday in such places as hotels and when he goes for a haircut?” His answer: “There should
be some organized effort to destroy these subtle barriers…
the Negro and the white must join to make this more than a racial issue but an issue between justice and injustice.”


Vietnam Protests

In the spring of 1970, protests raged across college campuses. On April 30, President Richard Nixon announced the U.S.
invasion of  Cambodia and the Vietnam War escalated without sign of slowing. On May 4, the National Guard opened fire at Kent State University, killing four people and wounding nine. In response, 400 UI students staged a “sleep in”
in front of Old Capitol. The next day, a 1,000-thick crowd flooded the Pentacrest, while a National Guard helicopter circled the area. Downtown shop windows shuttered and shattered. The iconic Kent photograph blazed below The Daily Iowan masthead. Staff were unapologetic, decrying administrators and the war.


Rose Bowl

By 1982, The Hawkeyes were no strangers to the Rose Bowl. They took home decisive wins in 1957 and 1959, but the 1982 game against the Washington Huskies heralded in a still-unbroken era of defeat at Rose Bowl stadium. After a spectacular season (which then-Daily Iowan Sports editor Jay Christensen described as a “Cinderella season”), the Hawkeyes couldn’t convert on a fourth-down try late in the second quarter. The Daily Iowan was there to capture the eventual 28-0 loss in the 68th Rose Bowl. As onlookers despaired, Marc Hansen wrote: “Hayden Fry split the uprights from 50 yards out with his assessment of Washington’s victory. ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ he said, ‘you’ve just witnessed an old-fashioned rump-kicking.’”


Gang Lu

Outside Van Allen Hall, a red oak grows skyward beside a stone plaque. Both memorialize an event that lives eternal in University of Iowa infamy: the Nov. 1, 1991 Gang Lu shooting. That fall afternoon, the disgruntled physics graduate student shot and killed Christoph K. Goertz, professor of physics and astronomy, Robert A. Smith, associate professor of physics and astronomy, postdoctoral researcher Linhua Shan, Dwight R. Nicholson, chairman of the physics and astronomy department, and  T. Anne Cleary, an associate vice president for academic affairs. Miya Rodolfo-Sioson, a student and temporary office worker,  was shot and paralyzed from the neck down. School shootings were not yet the American norm. While local police and media scrambled to assess the situation, Daily Iowan reporters were on the ground as the chaos unfolded. While the nation’s attention turned to Iowa, the DI fielded calls from major outlets such as CNN, nerves growing more fraught with each passing hour. The paper ran a special Sunday edition, featuring a predominant photo of the slain T. Anne Cleary, whose memorial walkway is crossed every day by students.


The Flood

Around June 8, 2008, the Upper Mississippi River swelled dangerously and flooded Eastern Iowa rivers. While the flood of 1993 affected a greater area of the country, the 2008 flood proved more catastrophic on the local level. Damage to Iowa City and Cedar Rapids was prolific and costly. Thousands of residents, including then-UI President Sally Mason, filled sandbags to mitigate the flood waters. Twenty-three buildings closed that day with two million square feet of the 16-million-square-foot campus affected by the floodwaters.  Called “Iowa’s Katrina,” campus restoration continues to this day. Hancher Auditorium and the arts campus were the hardest hit; both buildings underwent repair until the grand reopening in 2016. The Voxman Music Building now welcomes students to its stunning downtown location. Still to come: the University of Iowa Museum of Art.



Each presidential election cycle, the Hawkeye State moves into the national spotlight for the Iowa Caucus, an event critical to the election of our nation’s leaders. U.S. media outlets flock to the flyover state, but The Daily Iowan often leads the coverage. Young reporters stand beside seasoned professionals and the newsroom resembles a state of controlled chaos: phones ringing and tweets blazing as every photographer, reporter, and designer contributes to the main stories of the day. The February 2016 caucus was especially monumental, with Hillary Clinton’s ceiling-smashing run to the White House. 



In recent months,
the #MeToo movement has swept the
nation, punctuated by the fall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Throughout newsrooms, tech companies, and Washington itself, brave women shared their sexual harassment stories and demanded true cultural upheaval. Last fall,
12 Daily Iowan staff members added their power to the movement, publishing their names under the headline “Us Too.” They were joined by nine members of the University of Iowa Student Government and nine members of Graduate & Professional Student Government.