Front page of The Chronicle, December 19, 1905On Dec. 19, 1905, the first issue (right) of The Chronicle appeared on campus. The Trinity Chronicle, as it was called then, was run by the Columbian and Hesperian literary societies. The paper appeared once a week in a four page broadsheet format. The two groups had produced a number of publications in the past, including The Archive, the literary and news magazine that first appeared in 1887. For about 25 years, the two groups had been trying to publish a newspaper regularly. The College Herald was founded in 1881 and soon became the Trinity Magazine. For reasons now unknown, a faculty member walked into Columbian Hall and announced that, by decision of the faculty, Trinity Magazine would cease publication.

No paper existed until 1905 when the two groups elected an eight-person governing board to run The Trinity Chronicle. The board, made up of four members from each group, chose the editor, business manager and associate editor. The literary societies controlled the paper for 20 years, alternating the editorship each year between them. All staff came from both groups. In 1925, Dean W. H. Wannamaker decided to loosen the societies' control of the paper. With the support of the staff, Wannamaker created a new board of governors separate from the societies. The board was made up of two faculty, two alumni, two undergraduate men and two undergraduate women. The board decided to collect a student fee to support the paper. Prior to this time, The Chronicle was funded by subscription sales only

In 1943, Donna Hughes, Class '43 of became the first woman to be elected editor. After two male editors were called to military service, she served from March until the end of the academic year. The first woman to be elected to the position for a full year's term was Sally McIntosh, in 1956.

The board was also responsible for administering the newspaper's constitution, which provided that, "Except in the case of gross misrepresentation of student opinion or facts, the council shall in no way attempt to dictate the editorial policies of the publications." In the early 1960s, The Chronicle's printer was running copies through the press when he noticed a parody article on the nativity scene. The printer refused to print the article and complained to the administration. The paper was temporarily shut down and the editor was fired; however, soon after the  staff regained control of the editorial content of the paper.

The paper was published weekly until Fall 1934, when it became a semiweekly. In 1958, the paper attempted to publish three times a week, but failed due to lack of staff after a year. In 1966, the staff tried again and succeeded.

The paper's staff, like many other organizations, was caught up in the turmoil of the 1960s. The Chronicle took on an activist bent, running front page editorials in support of students who occupied the Allen Building in 1968. When alumnus Richard Nixon was elected president later that year, the paper ran a black border on the front page as "a traditional symbol of mourning." In response to complaints about the newspaper's bias on the editorial page, The Chronicle instituted a conservative/moderate forum to give other voices a say in the paper.

The paper's "red years" as one former editor calls them, also marked its upgrading to a daily newspaper. Since 1968, The Chronicle has never missed a scheduled daily issue, despite close calls with snowstorms and equipment failures.

The past decade has also seen important improvements in the paper. In 1980, the Publications Board that controlled The Chronicle and other campus publications decided to split and a separate board to govern  paper was formed. The Chronicle Board, which includes faculty, administrators and students, now decides important fiscal matters and oversees the newspaper.

Also in 1980, The Chronicle retired its typewriters and converted to computerized text-entry system that greatly increased the paper's efficiency. The paper would transmit articles across campus over phone lines to be typeset by the University's publications services department, where pages were completed. These arrangements continued until the Fall of 1986 when The Chronicle acquired its second computer system along with its own typesetter, allowing it now to produce its camera-ready pages in its own offices in Flowers Building.

As a business enterprise the paper had a shaky beginning. In 1907, the newspaper spent $601.75 and collected $583.25. As the newspaper gained acceptance with the community and advertisers, its prospects brightened. In the 1980s alone, the paper's budget more than tripled to more than $750,000, primarily through growth in advertising sales. As a result, The Chronicle Board decided in 1989 to forego the more than $100,000 annual subsidy that it had been receiving from student activity fees. In 1989, for the first time in more than 60 years, The Chronicle accepted no University or student subsidies.

Source: Readers' Guide to The Chronicle, included in the September 2, 1993 issue of The Chronicle

  • Several former editors have pointed out errors in the history that is reproduced above. For example, the "early 1960s" suspension referred to actually took place in December of 1959, and lasted for 10 days.
  • Regarding publication frequency, in November of 1960, the paper fell back to a twice-a-week schedule. In September of 1968, the paper became a daily, publishing on a Tuesday through Saturday schedule. Initially, the schedule varied somewhat, with issues even coming out on Sundays for a semester. By the Fall of 1970, a Monday through Friday schedule had been established.
  • In 1993 the  Duke Student Publishing Company was incorporated as a non-profit corporation. The Chronicle also went on-line in March of that year.