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Student journalism has always been a part of college life in Santa Barbara, even before the existence of UCSB. Before joining the University of California system, for example, Santa Barbara State College had a newspaper called The Eagle. As the institution slowly transformed into the modern UCSB, it adopted various other named for various other news publications, including The Roadrunner, El Gaucho and The University Post. The paper reverted to the name El Gaucho by 1964. In 1967, former El Gaucho editor John Maybury started a competing off-campus paper called "The Isla Vista Argo". Protesters burned down the Bank of America building in Isla Vista in 1970. In the wake of that incident, the paper's editors decided to change the publication's name to the Daily Nexus, in order to "keep with the changing nature of the university." The name was drawn by the paper's 1970-71 editorial board from a quote attributed to Robert Maynard Hutchins: "A free press is the nexus of any democracy."
Since then, the Daily Nexus has provided the students of UCSB with both campus-related and county-wide news each Monday through Friday. Today, the paper boasts a staff of roughly 30 student editors and dozens of student reporters. Few non-students are permitted to work at the paper. All employees are hired, promoted and trained by other students. Unlike many college newspapers, the administration has very little say in the content, since the paper's editor-in-chief, always a student, has the final say regarding what gets printed in the Daily Nexus. Regardless, students are paid for their work at the Nexus through the school and therefore are technically employees of the University of California. Much of the paper's funding, however, is derived through advertisement sales, much of which are done by student ad reps.
Currently, the paper features a team of news reporters and editors, photographers, sports writers and editors and staff for Artsweek, a weekly arts supplement in which students review movies and music and discuss cultural goings-on. The paper also features a daily opinion section in which the Nexus editors give staff editorials. This section also features space for any student or member of the Isla Vista community to write an opinion column or letter to the editor. Two of the paper's most popular features include a weekly sex column, The Wednesday Hump, as well as a "humor" column, "Dear Igor". Both run on the opinion page. The paper features daily drawings by student artists as well. At various points in the paper's history, it has also featured a science news section and The Daily Friday, a humor supplement.
The Daily Nexus office is situated in the Storke Communications Plaza, beneath Storke Tower and next to the offices of KCSB-FM, the campus radio station. Storke Tower is named for Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former U.S. Senator Thomas Storke, who was also a founder of the Santa Barbara News-Press.
Daily Nexus highlights
In 1986, while the paper was under the guidance of Editor-in-Chief William Diepenbrock, News Editor Steve Elzer broke the story regarding the investigation into misappropriation of UC funds by then-UCSB Chancellor Robert Huttenback. What had initially begun as a news article regarding the sudden departure of a UCSB vice chancellor eventually ended in an exposé of Huttenback's financial activities. Among other things, Huttenback had used UC funds to repair and improve his privately owned home. Huttenback resigned from his post on July 11, 1986. A review of the incident by the UC President was declared moot and never officially released. The story had been followed by newspapers throughout California, including the Los Angeles Times.
In 1995, the Daily Nexus filed suit against California Governor Pete Wilson and the UC Regents, alleging that the regents had illegally conspired during phone conferences to line up support for the cancellation of Affirmative Action. The suit claimed that the conference was a violation of the Bagely-Keene Open Meeting Act. Then-campus editor Tim Molloy and the Daily Nexus were both listed as plaintiffs. In June 1999, the California Supreme Court ruled that the paper could not continue with its suit, as any suits alleging violations of the Bagley-Keene Act must be filed within thirty days of the supposed violation. The court never actually ruled whether Wilson or the regents had violated the law, however. The suit received coverage in newspapers across the country.
For a time period in the mid-to-late 1990s, the Nexus began featuring a number of op-ed columns, mostly related to the life around UCSB and Isla Vista, Goleta and Santa Barbara in general. Among these pieces included Last Call, a highly satirical (if occasionally sardonic) column co-written by Erin Vosti and Shannon Dorgan.
On April 5, 2001, staff writer Brendan Buhler interviewed The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams in what turned out to be Adams' final interview before he died. After being published in the Nexus, selections from Buhler's interview were published in Douglas' final book, The Salmon of Doubt. The excerpts were noted as having come from the Daily Nexus.
In 2002, Nexus staff writers Marisa Lagos and Jennifer B. Siverts provided daily coverage of the duration of the quadruple murder trial of David Attias, who had killed four people in Isla Vista by running them down with his car on February 23, 2001. At the time of the incident, Attias had been a freshman at UCSB. In July 2002, a Santa Barbara jury ruled that Attias was guilty but insane at the time of the incident. The Attias case was also covered by newspapers such as Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. It also has been featured in multiple installments of the Dateline NBC news show.
Two long-time non-student employees, Barb MacLean and J.E. Anderson, worked at the Nexus for several decades.
The Daily Nexus has won a number of awards over the years. In 2009, the Nexus was acknowledged by the California College Media Association in several areas, most notably ranking first for "Best Back to School/Orientation Issue". Nexus writer Evan Sherwood was acknowledged in the "Best Breaking News" category, and Allison Bailey and Evan Wagstaff took second place in the "Best Editorial" category. Sports writer Matt Connolly was also awarded third place in the category of "Best Sports Story". In 2011, Nexus managing editor Lexi Pandell received the California College Media Association's "Best Feature Story" award for a piece about five students who died from drug and alcohol related accidents during an 18-month span.
UCSB students have sometimes reacted strongly to the Nexus' content. Student minority groups have marched in protest of the paper more than once. In 2000, the Filipino students' union picketed the paper in reaction to a joke in an April Fool's article regarding a fictional bombing of the Philippines.
In early 2005, UCSB's Black Student Union also marched in protest after the paper featured two front-page photos of a black man being arrested for allegedly raping a student in her dorm room. The incident was only one in a series of clashes between the paper and minority students at UCSB that date back to 1974, during which student Murvin Glass sued the Nexus and its editor-in-chief, Jim Minow. Glass claimed that the Nexus had printed an editorial cartoon that insinuated that he had stolen copies of the paper. Glass won the suit in 1979.
The newspaper's daily Weatherhuman feature contains cynical, and sometimes offensive commentary on news stories.
Some notable alumni of the Nexus (Position at Nexus):
- Steve Czaban - Radio personality - (Sports)
- William Diepenbrock - Orange County Register education editor, adjunct professor at University of La Verne. (Editor in Chief)
- Josh Elliott - ESPN SportsCenter anchor and former Sports Illustrated writer. (Sports Editor)
- Steve Elzer - Senior Vice President, Columbia Pictures (Editor in Chief)
- Morgan J. Freeman - Director (ArtsWeek)
- Alex Coletta - World-Renowned Cetologist and San Diego Union-Tribune Porpoise Correspondent
- Jason Ross - Emmy award winning writer for "The Daily Show". (News Editor/Editor in Chief)
- Christopher Scheer- Former editor at the San Francisco Examiner, managing editor at of the alternative news site Alternet.
- Bob Sipchen—Former LA Times editor, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Adjunct Professor at Occidental College's Dept. of English, UCSB's Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2006, author.
- Tony Pierce - Former Los Angeles Times blog editor
- Melissa Lalum - Former managing editor of Los Angeles Daily News, currently professor of journalism at California State University, Northridge
- "Interview: Douglas Adams". www.dailynexus.com. 5 April 2001. Retrieved 10 June 2011.
- "Human's Comments Offend Queer Student". www.dailynexus.com. 5 March 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2011.