The Arkansas Traveler faced its biggest financial challenges during the 1930s. The annual student publication fee of one dollar for The Traveler may have been all that kept the newspaper in operation during the early 1930s. Advertising plummeted as the Depression took hold.
Editor Johnny Erp let students know that he and his business manager had pledged to see the newspaper through and, as gentlemen, had agreed to forgo their $300 annual salaries should the paper’s revenues not be sufficient to pay for its expenses. He advocated increasing the student publication fee to help future editors and business managers: “There is no use crying over spilled milk. But it may serve as a guide so that others who step into our shoes may not tumble over the cream.” Later, Erp condemned a university policy that prohibited sale of beer advertising, which he maintained would have added another $400 to the newspaper’s budget from national sources alone.
To make ends meet, many journalism students ended up waiting tables, sweeping floors and stoking coal furnaces. Student writers who were industrious and skilled could write freelance features for the larger daily newspapers or string sports stories for the Associated Press or United Press International.
Ernie Deane, editor during the 1932-33 school year, recalled that “in those days, they didn’t send these highly paid sports writers all over the world,” which meant local writers could turn a little money stringing. Deane also remembered the ingenuity of a fellow student who — each year he was in college — wrote the same story about itinerant fruit pickers who traveled through Northwest Arkansas in the spring and then sold the story in successive years to the Kansas City Star, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Chicago Tribune.
The Arkansas Traveler. March 7, 1930.
Ernie Deane, interviewed by Karen Zwicker under the direction of Robert Cochran. Audio recording. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas, 1991).