Purdue Exponent

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Purdue Exponent Logo.png
The Exponent front page, January 20, 2006
The January 20, 2006 front page of
The Exponent
Type Daily independent student newspaper
Format Broadsheet
Owner(s) Purdue Student Publishing Foundation
Publisher Pat Kuhnle
Editor George Landsly
Founded 1889
Headquarters 460 Northwestern Avenue
West Lafayette, IN 47906
United States
Website http://www.purdueexponent.org/

The Purdue Exponent is one of a handful of independent student newspapers, with most other college newspapers being owned by the university or operated by the journalism school. The college newspaper serves Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. It is published on Mondays and Thursdays during university semesters by the Purdue Student Publishing Foundation, and is Indiana's largest collegiate daily newspaper.

The Exponent employs seven full-time professionals, relying for most operations on a staff of approximately 140 students, though the university has no journalism school.


The Exponent's first edition was published on December 15, 1889. It was a daily paper from 1906-2016. In 2017, it switched to a twice-weekly printing schedule. The Web edition (www.purdueexponent.org) was started in 1996. It is the first college newspaper in the country to build its own building (1989), and one of six college newspapers with its own press.

The path to becoming an independent entity began in 1968, when the university removed William R. Smoot II as editor-in-chief. The move followed critical and controversial columns in the newspaper, particularly one on October 23, 1968 that castigated university president Frederick L. Hovde.

The university informed Smoot on Friday, Nov. 8, 1968 that he was being removed, but the sixteen editors on the staff refused to accept the dictum. On Saturday, it put out a special edition with a headline, “We Will Still Publish.” By Monday, the headline was more defiant: “Smoot Will Continue: Staff”.

University officials claimed that alumni and political pressure had nothing to do with the move to remove Smoot, but Thomas Graham, a Purdue trustee later said, “Not only did I get a whole bunch of letters, I’d go down to cash a check at the bank and an old friend would grab (me) by the front of the shirt and tell (me), ‘Now dammit, you know right from wrong. Now go up there and get those liberals out of that university.’ … That’s how it’s done here in southern Indiana.”

The firing of the editor pushed to the fore the issue of who owned and who was responsible for oversight of the student newspaper. The issue was given to a faculty-student-administrator committee called the Exponent Review Board, but known as the Osmun Commission for its chairman, Dr. John Osmun. Ultimately the Osmun Commission decided over the opposition of administration members that while Hovde had the authority to fire Smoot, the university did not follow due process. Smoot was allowed to remain as editor-in-chief.

More important in the long term, the commission recommended that the Exponent become a not-for-profit corporation headed by a publishing board, the Purdue Student Publishing Foundation. Its rent-free use that had been in place since 1933 of windowless offices in the basement of the Purdue Memorial Union would end in 1969.

In 1975, at the urging of then Purdue President Arthur Hansen, the Exponent became free distribution with 10,000 copies distributed widely on campus.

Recent operations[edit]

The newspaper struggled through the first several years of organization, partly because it was capitalized only by operating revenues and partly because it was being forced to rent space from the university and to purchase printing equipment that had already been paid for. It went through a period of alternately making and losing money, though student staff was all volunteers.

A critical point came in 1975 when the newspaper went to free campus-wide circulation, expanding market coverage and gaining dramatic advertising increases.

By 1988, revenues had grown substantially and the newspaper began construction on the $1.9 million, 22,500-square-foot (2,090 m2) facility that it occupies today at 460 Northwestern Ave., West Lafayette.

The newspaper today distributes 12,000 copies daily during the school year and 6,000 during the summer. Revenues are nearly $1.2 million per year.

The current news adviser is Virginia Black.

Famous Exponent alumni[edit]

  • Paul Agase, sales manager, WSCR-The Score sports radio, Chicago.
  • Karl Ahlrichs, business executive and motivational speaker.
  • Toni Apgar, former vice president and group publishing director for the Healthy Lifestyles Group at Primedia Enthusiast Publications. Former editor-in-chief of Vegetarian Times. Also formerly with Folio:, Direct and Fairchild Publications.
  • Ken Armstrong, 2016, 2015, 2012, 2010 shared Pulitzer Prize winner (Seattle Times & The Marshall Project), 2009 John Chancellor Award winner for lifetime achievement in journalism, Seattle Times, Chicago Tribune. 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Award, in the category of Best Fact Crime. 2015, 2014, 2008, 1999 George Polk Award winner. 2012, APME Public Service Award. Reporter, The Marshall Project, /http://www.kenarmstrong.us/
  • Kathleen Barnes, columnist for Woman’s World magazine.
  • Barbara Bohusz, WMAQ TV/Chicago.
  • Jack Brennan, former reporter, editor and online producer, Fort Lauderdale (FL) Sun-Sentinel. Now retired.
  • Earl Butz, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
  • Carolyn Curiel, Purdue professor, NY Times, ABC Nightlight producer, speech writer for President Clinton, ambassador to Belize.
  • Andrew Czernek, former midwest editor, Electronic News and later VP Technology for personal computer maker Zenith Data Systems.
  • Bert Gault, executive editor, Watertown Daily Times.
  • Kent Hannon, editor, Terry Magazine, University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business; previously at Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sports Illustrated.
  • David Heckard, meteorologist, WBBH-TV in Fort Myers, Florida
  • Brandt Hershman, Majority Floor Leader, Indiana State Senate, former writer for President George H.W. Bush.
  • E. Howard Johnson III, designer, Wilmington News Journal.
  • Michael King, digital executive producer & Internet reporter, WXIA-TV, Atlanta
  • Alan Lee, former Fox News Morning anchor, Detroit. Novelist.
  • Bill Moreau, Washington, DC attorney, Barnes & Thornburg, LLC, former chief of staff to Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh; Former trustee, Purdue University.
  • Mark O'Hare, cartoonist. 2007 Emmy Award Winner for "Outstanding Animated Program" for Camp Lazlo and second in 2008. Writer and storyboard artist for Rocko's Modern Life, SpongeBob, SquarePants, Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Hey Arnold! Storybook work on The Ren and Stimpy Show. Creative director, supervising producer Camp Lazlo.
  • Larry Persily, Anchorage Daily News editorial page editor; former publisher The Wrangell Sentinel. nature gas pipeline coordinator for Alaska for President Obama administration.
  • Julian Phillips, motivational speaker, two-time Emmy Award winner, former co-host of weekend Fox & Friends, Fox TV.
  • Stephanie Salter, assistant editor for opinion and commentary, Terre Haute Trib-Star; previously at San Francisco Chronicle, Sports Illustrated.
  • Bob Sullivan (screenplay writer), edited HELICON, the literary magazine Exponent insert, during the Smoot years; and wrote the screenplay for Parts: The Clonus Horror, remade as the DreamWorks movie The Island (2005 film), directed by Michael Bay.
  • Carolyn Taylor, former special events coordinator, Major League Baseball.
  • Ginger Thompson, bureau chief, NY Times, Pulitzer Prize winner. Senior reporter, ProPublica.http://www.propublica.org/
  • Ron Thornburg, Editor for Circulation and News, Ogden Standard-Examiner; former editor, Burlington (VT) Free Press
  • Tom Walsh, business columnist, Detroit Free-Press.
  • Jim Wilson, former publisher of the Northfield (VT) News and former managing editor of the Burlington Free Press.
  • Skip Wollenberg, Associated Press.
  • Bob Peterson, (Cartoonist 1985 - 1987) animator, screenwriter, director, voice actor, Pixar. Oscar winner for screenplay for Finding Nemo and best screenplay for Up, 2010 (director, writer, actor). Films include: Dug's Special Mission, 2009 (voices of Dug and Alpha); Up, 2009 (screenplay, voices of Dug and Alpha); Ratatouille, 2007 (story material); The Incredibles, 2004 (voice); Finding Nemo, 2003 (screenplay, voice of Mr. Ray among others), Monsters, Inc., 2013 (story supervisor, story material, voice of Roz); Top Story 2, 1999 (story artist); Toy Story 3, 2010 (actor); A Bug's Life, 1998 (story artist); Geri's Game, 1997 (voice of Geri), Toy Story, 1995 (animator, layout artist), 8 Seconds (end montage contributor); The Good Dinosaur 2015 (writer).
  • Rick Karr, a journalist and educator who reports primarily on media and technology's impact on culture.


  • “Purdue’s Gadfly,” thesis by Robin Rauzi, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism (Ohio University), May 27, 1994
  • Purdue Exponent bound volumes
  • Purdue Exponent staff

External links[edit]