Type Weekly Newspaper
Format 11x17 tabloid
First Published 1916
Headquarters Rice University, Houston, Texas
Editors in Chief Savannah Kuchar
Website www.ricethresher.org

The Rice Thresher is the weekly student newspaper of Rice University in Houston, Texas. It was first published in 1916.[1] It has an estimated circulation of 3,000 and is distributed throughout the university and its surrounding areas.[2]

The Thresher has won numerous awards from journalism organizations like the Society of Professional Journalists,[3] Texas Intercollegiate Press Association, the College Media Association (CMA), and the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP), including Best Newspaper for a 4-year University under 5,000 from CMA (2016, 2018, 2019, 2020),[4] two All-American ratings from ACP (2009–2010, 1995–1996), and four Newspaper Pacemaker Finalist Awards (2018, 2017, 2003, 2000).[5] In 2019, the Thresher was named the 2nd best college newspaper in the United States by the Princeton Review, up from 3rd best in 2018 and 12th best in 2017.[6]

The Thresher runs on a six-figure annual budget, employs over 100 staffers, and is distributed each Wednesday of the school year with the exception of examinations periods and holidays. The paper is separated into six sections: News, Opinion, Features, Arts and Entertainment, Sports, and the satirical Backpage.

History

In the beginning ... literary societies unite (1915–918)

The Rice Thresher was the first student publication to be formed at the Rice Institute despite it appearing in the fourth academic year (1915–1916). In the fall of 1915, three literary societies - the Elizabeth Baldwin (female), the Owl (male), and the Riceonian (male) - elected three members each to serve on a committee to organize the paper. The committee then selected the founding editorial board, composed entirely of committee members plus two additional students. On Saturday, January 15, 1916, the first issue of the then-bi-weekly Thresher was published under the guidance of editor-in-chief William M. Standish.[7]

New era ... democracy ushers in weekly publication (1918–)

In 1918, two seminal events occurred to transform the Thresher into its modern iteration. First, a voluntary blanket tax was established for publications and sports events. The voluntary tax provided the Thresher $1.50 from each student who paid, and the now mandatory blanket tax remains the backbone of Thresher finances to this day. Second, in May 1918, the Thresher and all other student organizations were transferred under the purview of the newly-formed Student Association, inaugurating a system whereby the leadership of the paper would be elected by the student body along with the Campanile leadership and other student officers. During a divisive May 1918 election, students who had paid their blanket tax elected John T. Rather editor in chief and T. J. Burnett managing editor.[8][9] However, no issues were published during Rather's stewardship, owing to a suspension of student activities until the end of World War I. Post-war, a second Student Association election was held in January 1919 and installed Joe R. Shannon as editor in chief, Paul Frederick Bobb as managing editor, and Graham Peck as business manager, resulting in the first issue of the new era on February 6, 1919. From this issue forward, the Thresher has published weekly with a few deviations.[10] Over the years, the sections, masthead, offices elected, page dimensions, and number of pages have fluctuated, but the modern Thresher was born in 1918.

Pauses in printing

The Thresher has stopped printing twice before: once during World War I,[11] and once during the Spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which most students were asked to leave campus for fear of infection.[12]

Alternative, affiliated, and rumored Thresher publications; special editions

Recognition from beyond the hedges

Sections

News

Thresher News focuses almost entirely on campus events.

Opinion

Thresher Opinions typically prints the staff editorial, submitted letters, columns, and a cartoon. The section has been home to several awards won by the Thresher.[3]

Features

The Features section (added as Spotlight in 2017) focuses on features and profiles relevant to Rice. It serves to cover the unique Rice student experience and feature events, organizations, and people in the community.

Arts and Entertainment

Thresher A&E reviews campus plays, new movies, music and often contains a column by the editor or other writers.

Sports

With Rice's Division I-A status, Thresher Sports is unusually large for a weekly paper of a small school. In addition to Rice's official sport teams, it focuses on intramural and residential college sports.

The Backpage

There is a section called "the Backpage" that included a regular feature "Misclassifieds" (Misclass), in which students would write embarrassing stories about their friends or funny and embarrassing quotes heard around campus. In recent years, the Backpage has taken on more of a humor or satire theme, addressing issues on campus.

The Backpage has resulted in many controversies over the years, including at November 1996 Backpage titled "Rice Women Are Like...,"[15][16] a Misclass concerning former Rice president Malcolm Gillis' wife, a September 2006 Backpage that received attention from online blogs all of which resulted in apologies or firings,[17] and a January 2018 Backpage that received national attention after front-page coverage by Fox News and an official apology issued by Rice.[18]

Section graveyard

Over the years, Thresher staffs have reorganized, consolidated, and separated sections into new iterations and created special sections to reflect student life at the time. Some of these sections that are not currently in the paper are listed below (details to be added at a later date):

Other departments / positions (historically)

While the official sections of the Thresher define it, several other departments have come and gone over the years as the publication's lifeblood and support system. Some of these departments are listed below (details to be added at a later date):

Editors in chief (historically)

2020-present

2010-2020

2000–2010

1990–2000

1980–1990

1970–1980

1960–1970

1950–1960

1940–1950

1930–1940

1920–1930

1915–1920

Awards (external)

Associated Collegiate Press

College Media Association

National Scholastic Newspaper Association

Society of Professional Journalists

Texas Intercollegiate Press Association

Awards (internal)

Paul Frederick Bobb Award

The Paul Frederick Bobb Award is the only undergraduate award given at Rice for excellence in journalistic writing and reporting. Over the years, the then-current editors in chief have expanded and contracted the award to include news reporting, news features reporting, features reporting, and outstanding senior/body of work categories. The award was established in 1983 in honor of Paul Frederick Bobb (editor in chief 1919–1920) who died that year. The winners in each category are traditionally given $100.[29] The editors in chief select a shortlist of nominated articles from the previous year, and then the editorial board votes on the winner based on a review of the nominated articles (with bylines redacted) or via write-in votes for articles not nominated. Historical winners include:

Greg Kahn Award

The Greg Kahn Award is the only undergraduate award given at Rice for journalistic staff excellence. The award is named in honor of Greg Kahn (editor in chief 1989–1990). It was established after Kahn's untimely death in 2013, and it was first awarded in 2014. Historical winners include:

Thresher Poetry Prize

The Thresher Poetry Prize was announced in the March 23, 1918, staff editorial. The Prize was open to all students, encouraged the writing and submission of poetry, and carried a $10 cash award for the best poem as adjudged by three members of the Rice English Department.[42]

Thresher Review / Thresher Literary Review Prize

The Thresher Review or Thresher Literary Review was both a yearly spin-off publication of the Thresher in the 1960s-1970s and a contest with a $15 prize. Students were encouraged to submit "short-short stories; poetry reviews; criticism; photography; and essays of 'social import' on topics relevant to today's social problems." The editors would then choose a winner in the essays category to receive the $15 prize.[44]

Alumni

Despite not having a journalism department ever nor an adviser until the fall of 1997, the Rice Thresher has produced more than its fair share of luminaries in the fields of journalism, writing, computer gaming, medicine, the military, law and politics. Below is an incomplete list of those accomplished alumni who, amongst many other accomplishments, include the founders of the award-winning magazine Texas Monthly, a publisher of a large daily newspaper, an editor in chief of a major national newsmagazine, a president of a major news network, a White House Press Secretary, an award-winning screenwriter, a decorated war veteran, a managing partner of one of the nation's largest law firms, and the longest-tenured Lieutenant Governor in Texas history.

The Rice Thresher proudly honors and celebrates these alums below with their highest position held at the Thresher and years of said position held in parenthesis:

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