Wednesday, December 7, 2016

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The Daily Aztec News Editor Tara Millspaugh and Photo Editor Paige Nelson review old issues of the paper. (Photo by Antonio Zaragoza) The Daily Aztec News Editor Tara Millspaugh and Photo Editor Paige Nelson review old issues of the paper. (Photo by Antonio Zaragoza)

The Daily Aztec Celebrates 100 Years

SDSU's student-run newspaper has provided the university with top-notch coverage for a century.
By Hallie Jacobs

Former President John F. Kennedy gave a historic commencement address in 1963 at Aztec Bowl where Viejas Arena now stands. The Daily Aztec writers Ron Orr and Pat Stacnaker covered the event.

Lech Walesa, the former president of Poland and human-rights activist, made a legendary speech at SDSU in 2006 — his first major presentation in the U.S. The Daily Aztec's Michael Tracy was there. 

The first women’s studies, and among the first LGBT studies and Latino studies programs in the country began at SDSU. Allan Acevedo, a Daily Aztec reporter, explained the programs to the campus. 

Since 1913, San Diego State University's student newspaper has covered all these landmark events while documenting the university’s news and history.

The celebration of its centennial marks much more than 10 decades of reporting on the university. It also celebrates the rich history of SDSU. And it will culminate in a gala event on May 13 at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center.


In 1913, the San Diego Normal School approved a motion for a student-run newspaper. The Normal News Weekly’s premier edition was released on Nov. 26 that year with the headline "Supervisors and Student Teachers Have Meeting."

In 1921, The Normal News Weekly changed its name to the Paper Lantern. During World War II, The Aztec, still a four-page weekly, also published a newsletter for students in the Armed Services.

The paper’s popularity eventually demanded a daily release, resulting in the current name, The Daily Aztec. Joan Plouride's feature, "New Judiciary System Offered to AS Council" graced the inaugural cover on Friday, Sept. 23, 1960.

The Daily Aztec today consits of more than 100 staff members and is completely student-run. Positions include entertainment writers, adverstisement sales, copy chief and editors for each section of the paper. It relies solely on advertising sales to fund operations, printing costs and staff.

Changes over time

Since the newspaper’s inception, the chain of command has drastically changed.

The Normal News Weekly and Paper Lantern both had strict leadership and less freedom of expression.  Students had to be careful of what they wrote for fear of casting the university in a negative light.

The Daily Aztec, now completely operated by students, has much more editorial freedom that spans from university news and events to controversial general topics.

“We hold news meetings every week to brainstorm story ideas for the week to come," said current Daily Aztec writer, Stephanie Saccente.

"Each writer can pitch their story ideas to the editors and other staff writers and if it's timely and can be related to the students on our campus, the story is assigned and published in the paper. But we have a lot of freedom to write about what we want."

Technological advances in the last two decades have changed the way the newspaper operates. From online access to stories, to quick e-mails between writers and editors, The Daily Aztec has evolved with the times.

“I remember covering a football game against Cal (in 1993) where one of our reporters had to call me late at night so I could transcribe his story before our deadline,” said Greg Block, currently SDSU’s director of media relations and new media. “Now, a simple e-mail would do the trick.”

But despite changes in technology and culture, one thing remains the same: the Daily Aztec's mission statement, dedicated to serving the people.

Inspiring future journalists

From covering statewide elections to offering invaluable experiences, The Daily Aztec enables its alumni to pursue their dream careers.

The success of the paper is evident in its 100-year anniversary celebration this year.

Block reminisced on his time at The Daily Aztec:

“The Daily Aztec was like a fraternity to me,” Block said. “It’s where I hung out, met friends and made connections that I still keep in touch with.”

Connected to campus

The Daily Aztec's current editor in chief, Antonio Zaragoza, also spoke of the paper's connection to the campus.

"The Daily Aztec is great for making connections around campus as well as staying connected to the school," Zaragoza said. "It's a part of the university; it's not just a newspaper."

Currently, the Daily Aztec staff members are attempting to recreate the first issue of the San Diego Normal News Weekly.  

Fueling careers

Many of those who worked for The Daily Aztec credit the paper for kick-starting their passion for journalism and for giving them the skills necessary to obtain a career in the media industry.

The Daily Aztec has launched the careers of such notable alumni as:

  • Lalo Alcaraz, creator of La Cucaracha comic strip
  • Nick Canepa, UT San Diego
  • Cathy Clark, former NBC San Diego anchor
  • Armen Keteyian, 60 Minutes Sports and CBS News correspondent
  • J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5
  • Dan Weintraub, Sacramento Bee

Daily Aztec alum Eric Winter, ’94, credited the paper for providing excellent networking opportunities that brought him to where he is today, running

“I wasn't the best of students, and certainly couldn't pass a standardized test to save my life,” Winter said. “But three years at The Daily Aztec, from 1991-94, and my earned relationships on campus with the athletic department helped propel my career to where it is now.”

To view a complete archive of past and present versions of the Daily Aztec, visit the Library and Information Access website

Daily Aztec Alumni Memories:

Former Daily Aztec staffers shared their memories on the Daily Aztec Alumni Facebook page.

Geoff Anderson, ’72, worked on The Daily Aztec from 1968-72 when the newspaper offices were located in the Student Services building.  Looking back on his experience at the Daily Aztec, Anderson remembers, “Playing frisbee with coffee can lids on breaks.” Anderson graduated with degrees in journalism and English, and earned a teaching credential. “I taught high school journalism from 1973-2009, the last 33 years at Grossmont High School in the East County. I’m enjoying retirement now.”

Jamie Reno,’86:  “I really learned how to be a ‘real’ journalist at the Daily Aztec,” Reno said. “It’s a ‘real’ paper; we sold ‘real’ ads and we did ‘real’ reporting.” Although Reno planned to attend law school he started at SDSU, his experiences at the Daily Aztec revealed his love for writing and reporting. “I'm proud to have worked with so many truly talented writers, editors, photographers and artists at the Aztec,” Reno said. Reno has been the San Diego correspondent for Newsweek (now Newsweek/Daily Beast) for nearly 20 years.

Kim Costabile, ’94, began at the Daily Aztec in ‘86, working general assignment. She worked at the Rancho Santa Fe Review, Ramona Sentinel and other San Diego-based papers before returning to The Daily Aztec in the early 90s as a "Stanza" arts writer.  “If it wasn't for the Daily Aztec, I might never have gotten to be a reporter on Capitol Hill and at the White House,” Costabile said. Costabile was SPJ/Sigma Delta Chi Student Chapter President while working at the Daily Aztec.

David Vantress, ’94, has worked in journalism nonstop since graduating from SDSU in 1994. “I’ve worked at papers in Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina and Indiana, starting out in news but migrating over to sports full-time in early 2000,” Vantress said. He is now sports editor at the Goshen News in Goshen, Indiana.

Dawne Brooks, ’97, joined the Daily Aztec staff in ’94. “Just thinking of the DA today immediately warms my heart and makes me wax nostalgic – from that first exciting assignment I got from Scott Puckett on the Arts Desk to review a crappy movie to my final days as EIC in ’96/’97, my experiences at the Daily Aztec were definitely some of the most valuable and formative ones for my adult life to come,” Brooks said.

Nina Hall, ’97, didn't major in journalism, but working at the Daily Aztec (from 1991 to 97) was the best way to learn about the craft. “It was also the only place on a very big campus where I felt like I belonged, especially among my fellow arts and features writers,” Hall said. “Some of the rules and tips I learned from my first editor, Tanya Pampalone, are still what I go back to in my daily work as an entertainment reporter.”

Conor Mongan, ’99:  “Even though I'm a big sports fan, I never really attended many games while at SDSU because I was busy slaving away at the Daily Aztec all day and night,” Mongan said. After leaving SDSU, Mongan used all his pent-up fandom to help form the enthusiastic SDSU student section, known as “The Show.” “So thanks, Daily Aztec, for preventing me from becoming just another run-of-the-mill Aztec fan and providing me with all those great 12+ hour workdays!”

Kate Nelson, ’99, worked at The Daily Aztec from 1996-99.  “It not only taught me about reporting and editing, but it also taught me how to work with other person, which comes in handy in every field. Being on the DA staff was the most valuable experience I had. I'm now at U-T San Diego!”

Lorena Nava Ruggero, ’04, was a senior staff writer for The Daily Aztec city section in 2003-04. During her time as a student reporter, she had the opportunity to cover the then-unbelievable governor's recall election from petition drive long shot as well as election results on deadline. She now works as the marketing manager for SDSU Associated Students.  

Edward Lewis, ’11, currently covers UCLA for Yahoo Sports, and has traveled around the country covering basketball and football. “I've seen NCAA Tournaments, No. 1 overall recruits, bowl games, record-breaking performances and dozens of sold-out, rocking stadiums,” Lewis said. “I owe every nickel of it to The Daily Aztec.” 

Beth Elderkin, ’12, was an entertainment writer during the 2011 spring semester and managing editor for the 2011-12 school year.  Now she is an education reporter for The Daily Times in Kerrville, Texas.  “My classes and internship were wonderful in teaching me how to be a journalist;  SDSU's newspaper actually turned me into a journalist,” Elderkin said.


Daily Aztec Alumni
Photos from past Daily Aztec writers and staffers