Sifting and Winnowing Since 1892
Horseback: it really was the best way to deliver the first edition of the Daily Cardinal.
Founded April 4, 1892, the Daily Cardinal is the nation’s sixth-oldest independent daily student newspaper. Named by founder William Wesley Young for the university’s official colors, and predating the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Cardinal was the UW’s first training ground for student journalists.
Celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2017, the Cardinal counts more than 8,000 living alumni, including many notable figures in American journalism.
Any student can join the editorial or business staff; editors are elected by peers. All are inspired by the Bascom Hall plaque that informs the Cardinal motto: “… the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”
Beginning in the 1920s, the Cardinal brought a liberal view to coverage of student life. Its reputation moved to radical in the 1960s as it covered Vietnam War politics. In 1969, conservative students founded a competitor, the Badger Herald. For more than three decades, UW-Madison was the only university in the nation with the benefit of two competing student dailies.
A Cardinal editorial endorsing the 1970 bombing of Sterling Hall led, in part, to a decades-long decline in advertising support. In 1995, debt forced the newspaper to shut down. For seven months, staff scrambled to restructure finances, and the Cardinal successfully resumed publication.
Today, the Cardinal is a nonprofit organization guided by a volunteer board of directors and supported by the Daily Cardinal Alumni Association. The newspaper and individual staff members have earned numerous honors, including awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Associated Collegiate Press.
Generations of Cardinalistas recall countless hours in the paper’s offices, which, over the years, have been housed in Memorial Union, on Henry Mall, and today, in the windowless offices of Vilas Hall, atop the site of the Cardinal’s original 1890s-era office.
A first online iteration was known as the Digital Cardinal; today, coverage is at dailycardinal.com. In 2016, the Cardinal moved to publish online daily, with print editions twice per week.