Memories from
alumni & friends

Former staffers share their experiences with Student Publications

I was lucky to work at the Daily Cougar during a time of great events and fascinating news-makers. It was a time when college students across the country were invigorated by their impact on world events and were challenged to influence the public policy debate and to shape a better future.

I found many kindred spirits among the kids I met and worked so closely with at The Daily Cougar. We really felt we were champions of the truth and guardians of the facts.

To paraphrase Terry Valentine from "The Limey" -- Did you ever dream about a place you never really recall being to before? A place that maybe only exists in your imagination? Some place far away, half remembered when you wake up. When you were there, though, you knew the language. You knew your way around. *That* was The Daily Cougar.

The memories flood back:

  • There were three separate snow falls in January/February of 1973. Believe me – that can do wonders for a slow news cycle.
  • Walter Cronkite was "the man" in journalism and we studied his every move. We were all stunned when, after returning from commercial, he basically put the viewing audience on hold while he talked on the phone getting the details of Lyndon Johnson's death.
  • I earned my Daily Cougar creds by tackling the hardest job in the world -- Daily Cougar News Editor. The next year, I could smile knowingly as I saw the next "victim" fight through her time under the gun. Then, I remember actually praying I would get a good News Editor when I became the Editor-In-Chief.
  • There were countless "editorial sessions" with Joan Duffy, Linda Robinson and Linda Seely where we agonized over every idea or opinion we published. And, I can't begin to explain the dread we felt whenever Abu Ahmad brought in one of his volatile (and lengthy) tirades from the Organization of Arab Students.
  • The Daily Cougar was a real player in the Houston Mayor's race between "Young Fred" Hofheinz and Dick Gottlieb. During that election, we promoted the beginning of Dr. Richard Murray's career as a political prognosticator.
  • Ralph Nader's bad breath was unsafe at any speed.
  • The Daily Cougar led the fight to keep Phys Ed as a graduation requirement.
  • Dan Rather proved to be just as big a butt as Richard Nixon after he challenged him -- "Are you running for something? -- at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention.
  • We could always count on great hook-ups to the pop culture scene as well. Nothing beats parking near The Daily Cougar building and sneaking out the paper's delivery truckster to get up close and personal parking at Hofheinz Pavilion to see Bob Dylan, Ten Years After or Santana. And, everyone got "The Fever" upfront at Liberty Hall watching The Boss.
  • I feel I was at my best -- working with the best -- while I was at The Daily Cougar.

    David C. Toney Cougar staff 1973 - 1974

    Working at the The Daily Cougar showed me at a very early stage in my career that journalism really could facilitate change, provide a forum for political debate and nurture freedom of speech in a number of other ways. While I was there, Louis Farrakhan of The Nation of Islam came to speak on campus. Many student groups spoke out against his visit by writing letters to the editor and columns that we happily published. As editor, I used my op-ed forum to support of his visit in the name of the First Amendment and because I deeply believed in the need for real debate about race on campus. In response, I received death threats, a visit from the Hillel rabbi and visits from Holocaust survivors. professor Fred Schiff and publications director Dick Cigler stood by my side and supported my decision to encourage the raging debate in the paper. The experience has guided me in my ability to counsel my own writers as an editor. I will forever remember my time at the Cougar as a nurturi!

    Rivka Gewirtz Little

    I worked for the department of Student Publications and the Daily Cougar from 1989 - 1992. Having graduated with a B.S. in Sociology, I did not have too many options when it came to actually applying my degree at a job that could pay the rent. I have to say that the experience I had at SP/the Daily Cougar was the sole reason I was able to get a good full-time job working in the graphics department for a major advertising company in the Houston area. Thank you Student Publications!

    Angie Holland, Cougar staffer, 1989 - 1992

    I not only resent the allegation that I chose the Fall, 1970 Cougar staff by throwing all the applications into the air and simply picking the ones that landed face up. I not only resent the allegation, I resent the alligator.

    In reality, I found it frustrating to try to land a job on the Cougar during my first two years at UH. I was rebuffed a couple of times, even when I came in with stories I considered worthy – one about a steer fleeing from the stockyards across the street being chased through the campus by university police and another about a student on trial for shooting a cannon on campus.

    After I was named editor I had letters sent to every Journalism major with an application for the staff.

    The results were amazing and I spent much of the summer carefully trying to find a place for everybody who applied.

    In the process I managed to inadvertently strike a blow for women’s lib. When I met with the Journalism faculty with my list of staff members they shocked me by calling the staff “Stewart’s harem” because all the top jobs (except sports editor) were held by women. I hadn’t noticed this at all before that moment and replied that it just so happened that women deserved to have all those jobs. I should have said, “I’ll do anything to get a date.”

    This turned out to be a very talented group of people, who were great fun to work with. These were heady times. The Vietnam War – and the protest movement – were in full swing. The Baby Boomers were trying to take over the world and the sexual revolution was on.

    I could tell some juicy stories about this staff, but won’t. After all, we’re grandparents now and are pretending to be dignified.

    An editor at a paper I worked on paid high praise to former Cougar staffers. He said he liked it when UH people came to work at his paper because they always seemed to be seasoned journalists who could be sent right out to cover stories. Also, after making $5 a day on the Cougar, they didn’t tend to bitch about the pay.

    Richard Stewart, Cougar staffer, Fall, 1969-Spring, 1971 - editor, Fall, 1970

    So, it's 1967 and my first day at UH. I waltz into the Houstonian office, bold as brass and tell the editor, Linda Calloway, that I'd like her job someday. Why she hired such an arrogant little snit I'll never know, but for the next three years, yearbook deadlines were far dearer to me than boyfriends, booze and books.

    And, all that endless sentimental drivel about the sixties...ITS ALL TRUE! We had the time of our lives, discovering and demonstrating over values that I still hold dear. A fortunate few of us got to play in that arena as peer-reviewer and reviler at the same time. It was magical.

    ... and where did we all go? Some became VISTA volunteers with trekking escapes to Europe, like Tim Fleck and myself. Others went in to politics like Diane Baxter Trautman. Don Stowers are you still writing? Beverly Dee – are you still a libertarian? Tom Cammack, Geary Piercy, Roy Hammond, and Mike Calloway - does the camera still flash for you? Which one of you took the girl in long black coat picture on this website? And Benai Bryants? Sweet, creative Karyn, … you kept us calm. Haven’t seen Anne Trueheart and Bill MacElwaine since I and my now husband showed up in Haight Asbury and asked for a place to crash. Are you still in San Fran?

    I’d love to know where all my other favorite freaks and flowers have gone from those student publication days. It’s been a long time passing ...

    Judy Beust Harrington, Houstonian Editor, 1970

    Wanted to add to my recent memories of Student Publications and more specifically the 1964 Houstonian. Our staff did a great job with this edition. The 1964 Houstonian was the first of our yearbooks to receive All-American Honors from the three rating services. We truly had a great staff.

    Charlie Sicola, Houstonian yearbook

    I found my life, my career, my best, lifelong friends at the Daily Cougar. And it happened because my application landed face up on the newsroom floor. The Fall 1970 editor Richard Stewart and Sports Editor Steve Pate bought a six-pack of beer for an evening of scrutinizing applications for the coming semester. There may have been more than one six-pack. They ended up throwing the apps up in the air those whose apps landed face up were invited to try out for reporter positions.

    Painfully shy, I showed up for my tryout and a gruff news editor, Gloria Smith, handed me a flyer for the Tutorial Project, told me to go to the UC and get a story. I was petrified to approach the total strangers at the Tutorial Project table, but was more scared of Gloria, who looked like she could chew the ass off an elephant if you didn't deliver copy on time. I meekly introduced myself to the Tutorial boys and as soon as they heard "Daily Cougar" they were pulling out a chair in welcome. It was the last shy moment I ever had.

    I was sitting on the floor behind Micky Leland, wearing a string of chains across his t-shirted chest when Gov. Preston Smith addressed students in the UC. Mickey and his posse started tossing fake reefers on the stage and shouted for Smith to "Free Lee Otis," the black guy in state prison facing a 30-year sentence for smoking pot. The governor's security and always professional red jacketed Traffic and Security officers (serving under Larry Fultz) hustled ol' Bubble Head out of the building, me running behind them. The governor said he couldn't understand why the crowd was shouting about "frijoles."

    Before Watergate brought down Richard Nixon, Daily Cougar reporters "followed the money" and uncovered student funds misappropriated by the Student Association. The scandal led to the resignation or impeachment of SA President and a perpectual student who had manipulated the student administration to buy a video tape camera and other electronic equipment. I wasn't involved in the stories, but Eric Gerber probably remembers. He was managing editor under Rita Bloom at the time. I think the reporter's name was Peggy Reid. The stories caused much friction between the student government and the Cougar. Guidance and encouragement from department chair Campbell Titchenor kept us going.

    Much social upheaval was going on the the early 1970s in the world, the country and on campus. I was editor the year a gay man ran for homecoming queen, sending the Greeks into a major tizzy, Every day during the campaign he danced with a boa constrictor a la Alice Cooper in the UC atrium. Macho guys occassionaly pelted him with ice cream cones. I took numerous anonymous calls from closeted gays angered by the treatment. There were threats against the candidate and rumors of a fixed election. The aforementioned Larry Fultz asked us to be impartial observers of the vote. The snake guy lost by a handful of votes and was introduced on the homecoming field with other members of the queen's court.

    Joan Duffy, Cougar news staff 1970-1973

    My whole reason for transferring to the University of Houston was to write for the Daily Cougar. I went to a journalism conference and was told by recruiters that I needed to get experience at a daily campus paper in order to land an internship at a major daily newspaper. I worked for the Daily Cougar while attending school full time and working a 30-hour a week job. I always sacrificed something to have enough time to write a story for the Daily Cougar. And I loved every bit. I interviewed everyone from the every-day student walking through campus to top ranking officials at the university and politicians who were trying to make a difference for UH. I devoted every bit of extra time I had to writing stories for the Daily Cougar. My true passion for working for the Daily cougar was evident the last semester at UH. That semester I took nine credit hours through distance education because I started a full-time job at a newspaper 160 miles away from Houston. I moved into a new city and worked Tuesday through Saturday. I would drive to Houston Sunday mornings and spend the entire day at the Daily Cougar on Mondays so I could at least get one story in per week. That was truly exhausting, but well worth my time. My heart was always with the Daily Cougar. And I was committed to making it a great newspaper while I was at the University of Houston. I pick up a copy every time I go to campus for a game or event and it is refreshing to see what the next generation is doing to continue the legacy.

    Miriam Garcia, Cougar news staff 1998-2001

    I loved working for Student Publications! One thing I remember specificially was when they changed someone's job title from "Managing Editor" to "Barely Managing Editor" .... Yikes!

    Angie Gross, Cougar production/composing staff, 1989-1992

    I don't recall his name, but one morning during the spring of 1974 a doctoral student shot his professor, then turned the gun on himself. I was the only one on campus who got pictures of the victums..they were shown on the local TV, plus got picked up by the wire services. My 15 min of fame.

    During the summer of he same year, a student jumped off one of the towers.

    We also covered the appearance of President Nixon downtown when he confronted Dan Rather.

    Ed Lawrence, Cougar news staff, 1974-1975

    The Houstonian staff entered a homecoming spirit contest as a joke of sorts and we ended up winning like $300 I think. I was editor-in-chief of the yearbook and rented an apartment with Rivka Gewirtz, the editor-in-chief of The Daily Cougar, and Jena Moreno, features editor of The Daily Cougar, so we used the money to throw a big bash at our house for all the crew of The Houstonian and The Daily Cougar. I think some of the pics even made the yearbook. That was the funnest event I remember.

    Joann Stephens, Cougar news staff, Houstonian staff, 1992-1995

    Wow. Those really were the days. We loved nothing more than causing great consternation for the chancellor, the president and the regents. In the early 1990s, a battle raged to eliminate the "system," and we at The Daily Cougar helped lead the charge. You could argue that journalists shouldn't take sides, but we did and I never regretted it. Things got so hairy back then that there accusations that someone had tapped into my university email while I was the editor. There are also veiled threats from administrators about what would happen if we didn't back off. We took very seriously our role as holding the university's powers-that-be accountable. I had tremendous respect for Dick Cigler, who was the student pub director. He was a rock and he always stood up for us, even when I think it might have endangered his job.

    Tanya Eiserer, Cougar news staff 1991-1994

    I learned really quick that if you did not mind minimal pay, working long hours, a high turn over of staff, unexpected problems, critics, lack of sleep, living off of food from a vending machine and ever changing deadlines, then a career at a newspaper should be avoided. But more importantly, I got a true taste of what working at a free press is all about and what power a printed medium of newsprint has.

    Shane Schiermeier, Cougar news and production staffs, 1994-1997

    Share yours

    Enter your name, e-mail address and your memories from working for or simply being a fan of The Daily Cougar or Houstonian. Please include your years of attendance in your comments. Then click Submit to send your comments. To clear the form, click Reset.