An Instructor Arrives
In 1921, the university hired its first instructor of journalism. Murray Sheehan, a writer who had received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University and a master's degree from Harvard, was hired to teach classes in journalism and to be the university's first publicity director. Sheehan had served in the Army during World War I and came to Arkansas after serving on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin for a year.
Sheehan taught three courses -- news writing, editorial writing and a third that varied each semester. Prior to Sheehan, professors in the English department occasionally taught a class in newspaper writing.
Speaking to the University Press Club, Sheehan described the joy of working on a newspaper: "First, the very love of the thing wins the man." He added that students who worked for The Traveler would need "to give the news an agreeable turn" since the campus would usually have already heard the news itself long before the weekly edition was printed. For feature stories, too, students would have to keep their eyes open:
There is much material right here on the campus connected with our every day life that would make corking feature subjects. The whistle, the water supply, the heat plant and many other things, concern our everyday lives, yet most of us know little or nothing about them. The good editor can and will see the things that concern the daily lives of his readers.
By all accounts, Sheehan lived a Bohemian lifestyle, renting a one-room bungalow from author Charles Finger on the west side of Fayetteville and "living alone with his piano, his typewriter and his books." Sheehan, The Traveler wrote, was the only professor who rode a mare to campus each day and the only one to ride home each night.
During this period, Haldeman-Julius Co. published several Little Blue Books by Sheehan that were histories of painting, sculpture, music and architecture as well as one titled "Hints on Newspaper Writing."
He also wrote two novels, "Eden" and "Half Gods," the latter a thinly veiled satire of Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas. President John C. Futrall, whose character was not portrayed sympathetically, told Sheehan that he needed to spend more time on university publicity. Insulted, Sheehan resigned. Futrall, who had turned away similar spurious offers from Sheehan, accepted on this occasion.
The Arkansas Traveler, November 3, 1921
Ibid., November 2, 1922
Murray Sheehan. Eden, (New York: Dutton and Co., 1927); Half Gods, (New York: Dutton and Co., 1928)
Robert A. Leflar. The First 100 Years: Centennial History of the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Foundation Inc., 1972), 136.