Oklahoma Scholastic Media (OSM) was known formerly as the Oklahoma Interscholastic Press Association (OIPA), from its beginning in 1916 until 2004, and was fashioned after the Texas Interscholastic Press Association (TIPA) at Baylor University. TIPA was a short-lived organization, and after its demise, OIPA was the only interscholastic press association in the nation. That makes it the oldest continuous organization serving any state’s high school publications.

            At its first meeting May 6, 1916, OSM/OIPA elected its first set of officers. OSM/OIPA’s founder, Professor H. H. Herbert, David Ross Boyd Professor at the University of Oklahoma, was elected secretary-treasurer. Although the title of secretary-treasurer has changed over the years to executive treasurer (1965) and finally to executive director (1991), the men and women who have served OSM/OIPA and overseen its direction have all been strong journalists with a desire to teach younger students their craft.

            Herbert initiated the first OSM/OIPA interscholastic meet in 1916 to provide education and inspiration to aspiring journalists who, for the most part, worked on their high school newspapers and yearbooks. Several classifications of high schools were set up based on enrollment. Although these classifications have changed slightly over the years, classifications are still used today, currently splitting the schools up into Divisions I, II, and III, with Division I being the largest schools.

Fifteen schools entered the first interscholastic publications competition in May 1916. In October, 23 schools entered the fall interscholastic meet. In the early years, conferences were held in conjunction with University of Oklahoma sporting events (at $1.50 per football ticket) to entice participation. Traveling was not as easy then as it is now.

            By 1923, as many as 6,000 students were attending the meetings at OU. During the Depression years of the 1930s, membership dwindled. Membership in OSM/OIPA for school year 1929-30 was 46 schools, but by 1932-33, only 26 members remained. Toward the end of the Depression, in the spring of 1939 and the subsequent fall, membership had risen to 40 schools, marking the largest attendance of students at the conferences in the history of the association to that point.

            The years were fraught with difficulties. Although these years were, in many ways, good for journalism and some newspapers published student articles to build goodwill, travel was difficult because of gasoline rationing. For the first time in its history, the 1942 fall OIPA meeting was cancelled. The association still held its publications contest, however. The reduction of activities caused some schools to drop out of OSM/IPA, and membership fell to 31 schools during the 1942-43 academic year. By 1944-45, membership had risen to 47 schools and then to 54 by the fall of 1945. The spring 1945 contest winners were announced over the air by Norman radio station WNAD, and the speeches that would have ordinarily been given just to the high school delegates, as those attending were called, were broadcast as well. In fall 1945, Professor Rice, secretary-treasurer re-established the fall conference, the first post-war meeting of OSM/OIPA.

            At the fall 1955 conference, 756 students attended, but only 50 delegates from 50 schools were permitted to stay for the second day of the workshop and to attend the football game. Apparently, disciplining the students on Friday nights became such a problem that two-day meetings were discouraged. In 1960, the fall conference was cancelled. The University of Oklahoma chose to cooperate with the state’s secondary schools in helping to reduce the number of events that caused student to miss class. By spring, however, the OU journalism faculty urged President George L. Cross to have OSM/OIPA meeting return to their former fall and spring schedules, with the caveat that they be only one-day meetings; this structure remains today with an event in April called Spring Media Monday and an event in November called Fall Media Monday.

            By 1950, peak membership was reached with 93 schools belonging to the organization. Membership dropped to 53 schools in 1960-61 when the fall OIPA conference was cancelled. At the spring 1964 conference, membership had risen to 86 schools, and by April 1, 1965, the total was 89. April 30, 1965 was the date of OSM/OIPA’s 50th anniversary. The membership goal was set at 100 schools, but it was not reached. Professor James F. Paschal served in the role of what is now known as executive director from 1963-1991. Today the top honor for each type of publication, or sweepstakes, is named after Paschal due to his dedication to the organization for nearly 30 years.

            Laura Schaub, a former high school yearbook teacher, took over as director for OSM/OIPA in 1991. Schaub’s tenure also saw the change of the location of the conference office from Copeland Hall to the new Gaylord Hall, where the College of Journalism after the new building opened in 2002. Schaub was known as an enthusiastic leader and teacher, and membership was steady during her years as director, with normally around 80 schools involved yearly.

            Following Schaub’s departure in 2003 to work with a yearbook company, the next Executive Director, Kathryn Jenson White initiated a name change that officially took hold in 2004, which reflected the changing reality of mass media. In creating a new logo, she focused on that three-step process in creating journalists: a start in high school, development in college and fruition as a professional. Now called Oklahoma Scholastic Media, or OSM, the organization retains the OIPA acronym in many documents out of respect for its almost 100-year tradition. White secured grant funding from the Ethics and Excellent in Journalism Foundation to help schools start and improve media publications, and this program, known as Oklahoma Scholastic Media Initiative, is still going strong today, though it now focuses on starting and improving online publications. After White retired in 2008, two interim directors kept the organization running: Though the two interim directors were dedicated and kept the conferences running smoothly, membership and attendance declined substantially after 2008, with 40-50 schools involved by 2013. At Spring Media Monday in 2013, attendance was just shy of 200 students and teachers.

In fall 2013 the current director, Melanie Wilderman, was hired to run OSM and teach in the Gaylord College as an assistant professor of journalism. Wilderman has a long history with OSM, competing as a student when she was in junior high and high school at Carl Albert in Midwest City, serving one year as a student officer in 1995-96, working as the graduate student assistant under former director Laura Schaub in 2002—03, and returning as director 10 years later. The semester before Wilderman took over, the spring conference attendance was low at less than 300 attendees. However, with a focus on new membership, current membership retention and dedication to expanding the online and broadcast publication members, numbers are again on the rise.

With approximately 75 member schools in the 2015-16 academic year (also the organization’s centennial year), including newspaper, yearbook, online, magazine and broadcast, Media Monday attendance is growing again, with around 430 at Spring Media Monday 2015 and 670 at Fall Media Monday 2015. There is concern, due to statewide cuts to education, that membership and attendance could again become difficult to maintain, as funding for education is currently suffering, and with it money for extra-curricular activities becomes increasingly difficult to sustain.

** Jocelyn Pederson contributed to this article

OSM-OIPA Directors

Secretary-Treasurer Tenure
Professor H. H. Herbert 1916 – Spring 1923
Professor Fayette Copeland, Jr. Spring 1923 – Fall 1923
Professor Grace E. Ray Fall 1923 – February 1945
Professor Leslie H. Rice February 1945 – Fall 1946
Professor Truman Pouncey Fall 1946 – Fall 1947
Professor Leslie H. Rice Fall 1947 – Fall 1948
Dr. John R. Whitaker Fall 1948 – Fall 1949
Dr. W. J. (Jack) Bell Fall 1949 – 1951
Professor David P. Bergin Fall 1951 – 1959
Eldon Rawlings, Graduate Assistant Fall 1959 – Fall 1960
James Crabtree, Graduate Assistant Fall 1960 – Fall 1961
Barbara Schumaker Fall 1961 – Fall 1962
Nancy Wagner Fall 1962 – Fall 1963
Executive Secretary Tenure
Professor James F. Paschal Fall 1963 – 1991
Executive Director Tenure
Professor Laura Schaub 1991 – 2003
Professor Kathryn Jenson White 2003 – 2011
(Interim) Sarah Cavanaugh 2011 – 2012
(Interim) Janette Wallis 2012 – 2013
Professor Melanie Wilderman 2013 – current