A short history of the Vanguard

The Vanguard celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, enjoying a history as storied as the university itself. The paper emerged shortly after the inception of the Vanport Extension Center—the precursor to Portland State—as a means to cover school events and build a community of readers. Veteran students returning from the battlefields of World War II found in its pages a means to re-adapt to academic and civilian life.

The first Vanguard issue released on Nov. 15, 1946 as the Vet’s Extended, published out of the apartment of blind veteran Don Carlo. The issue included an introduction by Navy vet Dr. Stephen Epler, founder of the Vanport Extension Center, and announced the inauguration of the Student Government. From then until now, the paper has maintained diligent coverage of school activity and organization.

At the suggestion of professor Vaughn Albertson, the paper was renamed the Vanguard for the winter term to appeal to a more diverse audience. The staff initially met at Carlo’s apartment several evenings a week to write and edit the text-only weekly. Photographs didn’t appear in the Vanguard until the Jan. 28, 1954 edition. Photo and illustration now plays a major role in publication, with editors and designers often working side by side to present striking news content.

Since its inception, the paper and staff have encountered several controversies. In 1949, editor Ray Bouse defended his staff against accusations of communist party affiliations and communist slanted news coverage. Bouse answered criticism against the paper in a meeting of staff, board members and students. No further action was taken, but the precedent for confrontation was set.

The Vanguard supported the student rights movement of the 1960s, and in May 1967 published a nude photograph of Allen Ginsberg alongside an article discussing his upcoming visit to the PSU campus. The issue was confiscated and withheld from circulation by then school President Branford P. Millar, and Vanguard publication was suspended.

Students and staff alike were not pleased with the idea of not having a campus voice. While various factions debated issues of editorial control that the Ginsberg photo raised, Donald R. Moor of the Philosophy Department and 80 of his colleagues published two issues of the Independent Vanguard.

Overwhelming support for the Vanguard eventually led Millar to reinstate publication a few months later after agreeing on several organizational changes.

Further standoffs occurred in the mid-1980s against school President Natale Sicuro. The Vanguard published a story in the fall of 1986 exposing Student Government President Michael Erickson’s plan to arrange the annual homecoming dance for “whites only.” Sicuro ardently supported Erickson; his public approval soon plummeted in the face of that and other suspicious activities.

Controversy isn’t the paper’s only distinguishing mark. The Vanguard has earned many awards over the years at the annual Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association contest. Recent awards include being named the top Oregon college newspaper in 2014, including first place in General Excellence, earning thirty awards in 2015, and eleven in 2016.

The Vanguard continues to honor its legacy of serious journalism by exposing controversies, celebrating achievements, and working directly with students to produce the best paper possible.