Student journalists redefine a rivalry

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Student-athletes are not the only ones who thrive on the high-level competition yielded by an annual rivalry. Aspiring journalists at U-M and the Ohio State University got in on the action three years ago, debuting their ‘Rivalry Edition’ as a dual-newsroom fundraiser.

The 2021 special issue is another joint effort between the respective staffs of The Michigan Daily and OSU’s The Lantern. The 20-page print edition dropped in  Ann Arbor and Columbus Nov. 18. Held one way, the front page showcases Michigan. Turn it over and flip, and OSU is on the cover. Content dives into the history of the famously contentious rivalry between the two football teams with features on the coaches and players, historical stats, opinion pieces, and more. The edition is available online as well.

“It’s a great way for our student journalists to channel their talent, energy, and creativity through something we care about,” says Michigan Daily Editor-in-Chief Claire Hao, class of 2022. The Daily’s designers, photographers, audience engagement team, web developers, sportswriters, business teams, and others pitched in on the annual project.

“It’s not only a collaboration between the two schools, but it’s the biggest collaboration we have all year in the Daily newsroom,” Hao says. “It’s a rivalry and a collaboration. That’s my favorite part about doing the edition.”

‘Pumping some juice into journalism’

While collegial, the dual project also serves as a competitive fundraiser. And that’s where things get heated. Donors got the Daily to $10K by Nov. 18, and the competition continues through kickoff Nov. 27.

Money raised goes into the Michigan Daily Program Fund, jointly controlled by the Daily’s general manager and the editor-in-chief. Funds cover such essentials as equipment updates, software, conference and competition fees, travel to cover away games and other news events, printing, and distribution. The financial support is especially significant at U-M, which offers courses in journalism, but not a degree. Student editors mentor incoming reporters while relying on faculty and alumni for professional guidance.

“It’s a great way to use the rivalry for a positive influence on education, rather than on the football fans, the TV networks, and the advertisers’ budgets,” says broadcaster and former Wolverine offensive tackle Jim Brandstatter, BA ’72. “And we’re pumping some juice into journalism, which is taking a hit these days.”

A rivalry and a collaboration

Brandstatter joined alumni and student journalists from both schools during a Nov. 18 webinar (see video, above) to support the fundraiser and discuss the longstanding rivalry. OSU alum Albert Breer, ’02, moderated the chat. The former Lantern student-journalist is now a senior reporter and lead content strategist for Sports Illustrated MMQB. Former OSU football player Joshua Perry (’15), on-air talent for the Big Ten Network, also joined the webinar to explain how his football career prepared him to speak on camera.

The athlete-turned-broadcaster lauded the students for embracing such high-level competition on the journalistic playing field. The annual ‘Rivalry Edition’ can foster a unique kind of team unity and momentum in the newsroom that he experienced as an athlete, he says.

“[The U-M/OSU game] had to feel different from anything else you were preparing for,” Perry says. “We would put Michigan scout team jerseys on the floor for players to walk on as they came into the facility.”

Such aggression is less overt among the student journalists. But there’s nothing like facing off against the very best, says OSU alum Sandy Hermanoff (’65), CEO of Hermanoff Public Relations. She serves on the Lantern‘s advisory board and is chair of the OSU School of Communication advisory board. Her husband Michael Hermanoff, BA ’62, is a Michigan alum who advises the Daily. He was the paper’s summer business manager when Tom Hayden, BA ’61, was editor-in-chief. Mike told LSA’s “Dateline Ann Arbor” that he used to sleep on the couch in the “ladies’ john” after putting the paper to bed.

His dedication has never waned. The Hermanoffs are diehard supporters of their respective college papers. They fund scholarships, mentor students, and were instrumental in creating the ‘Rivalry Edition’ fundraiser. They will celebrate their anniversary in a “house divided” on game day, Nov. 27.

“When Mike and I met we realized we had so many things in common,” Hermanoff says of their stints at the Lantern and Daily. “And we’ve had a lot of fun with it over the years. We don’t speak on game day, and after the game … well, I’ve been gloating for a number of years. Whoever wins gets to have their school’s paraphernalia up for a week.”

Beyond the jersey

Brandstatter, who has been calling play-by-play for the Wolverines on radio and TV for 43 years, also lives in a “house divided.” His wife, longtime Detroit newscaster Robbie Timmons, graduated from OSU.

Ideally, Brandstatter says, the newsroom competition will provide common ground across universities and expand networking opportunities for the aspiring journalists.

“It’s good to learn that the person at OSU or U-M is not a one-horned maniac,” Brandstatter says. “We are giving students an opportunity to compete and to understand how to compete so they can take their career to the next level. These students may be working with each other – or for each other – one day in the future.

“We self-scout in football and constantly ask, ‘What can I do to win the next game?'” he continues. “And that’s how it is in life too. I’m a firm believer in competition. If you’re competing with each other, you’re going to learn something new and find a way to get better. Those lessons will be with you for a lifetime, whether competing in a game or for a job at a publication.”


  1. John Jay - BA 1967

    I remember the “ladies’ john” in the Michigan Daily building from a summer school part time custodian job in the mid-60s. Early mornings was the time I would come in and clean. For me, entering the “ladies’ john” was unusual, though enlightening. But my favorite memory was from my first time in the space when I came upon the sanitary napkin dispenser attached to the wall on which was scratched, “This candy tastes like cotton.” I still laugh about it 60 years later.


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