In 1940, UA President J. William Fulbright proposed to put The Traveler under the guidance of the journalism department. Fulbright said that his late predecessor, John Futrall, had lamented the fact that the student newspaper was not, in Futrall's opinion, "not fulfilling the purpose of a university newspaper."
Letters between Futrall and Walt Lemke, chair of the journalism department, indicated Futrall perceived much of the newspaper's published material as "trivia" and that Lemke regarded the system under which it operated rather than the students themselves as the fault.
Fulbright, himself a former Traveler staff writer, proposed a board of control comprising the university's business manager, two students, and two members of the department of journalism, with the head of the department as chairman. The board would be charged with appointment of staff members to The Traveler and oversight of the operation.
Editor Seth Thompson and former editor Doug Smith editorialized that such a change might take some of the politics out of selection of The Traveler editor: "The candidates are mauled about by the public, who has no way whatever of knowing who is the best man."
Dean Giles Ripley, chair of the Faculty Senate, argued that publication of the student newspaper pre-dated the journalism department and that it had operated successfully under the present arrangement. A Traveler news story described the arrangement:
At present, the Traveler has very little official connection with the Department of Journalism. The two professors, under a clause in the student government constitution, must approve the assistant editors selected by the editor. The classes in news writing now use the paper as a laboratory, and the editor chooses journalism majors for the staff positions, although he is not bound by any clause in the constitution to do so.
A week later, The Traveler reported that Fulbright met with the Student Senate. Fulbright said he had checked about the management of the paper after an editorial that he termed bad publicity for the university, and he found in his investigation that the editor was not responsible to anyone for his actions. Student senators "vigorously attacked" Fulbright's proposal to change The Traveler's autonomy and eventually voted in closed session against the change, in part because the paper was funded by a compulsory student subscription.
The editorial to which Fulbright might have been referring was one in which writer Bill Penix poked fun at local Baptist preacher who had condemned university students for their drinking and hell-bent ways. Fulbright had not been pleased and wanted to censor the stories. Many years later, Penix said he perhaps "should not have written as bluntly" as he did. The dust-up didn't interfere with his later relationship with Fulbright. Penix worked as campaign manager for Fulbright during one of his Senate campaigns.
And The Traveler, itself, appeared to have no ill will toward Fulbright. The paper editorialized heavily against the connivances of Governor Homer Adkins to oust Fulbright as president. In fact, Adkins waited until the summer break, when students and the student newspaper were idle, to fire Fulbright.
The Arkansas Traveler.
Ibid. January 16, 1940.
Dorothy Stuck and Nan Snow. Roberta: A Most Remarkable Fulbright (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1997) p 141.
The Arkansas Traveler. March 6, 1941.