Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 14, 2024

A conversation with Arthur Cleveland, Business Manager '62

By ARIELLA SHUA | May 17, 2021



Students exit a building after class circa the 1950s, around when Cleveland first arrived at Hopkins.

Arthur Cleveland worked on The News-Letter in various roles on the business side of things, including as publisher and business manager from 1958–1962. Since then he has worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Post and The Newspaper Advertising Bureau, among other jobs.

The News-Letter: When did you first decide to join The News-Letter?

Arthur Cleveland: Well, because I saw that there was the opportunity with the business side, and I also thought it would be a fun job to run the operation, if it ever came to that. I didn't expect to have the job in my junior year, I expected to probably be the senior year that I would get the job. But I got the job because they were broken... by the guy who was supposed to take it. He had a bad average and so the dean called me and gave me the job. I was a sophomore at that point.

N-L: In one of your emails, you had said that you trained someone to take over, but then they transferred to another school?

AC: Yeah, that's correct. I wasn’t supposed to do it for my senior year. And then he [the guy who was supposed to run Business] went off to the London School of Economics and wasn't available, of course, so I had the dean tell me, well, you're gonna have to take it for your senior year, too. So I said, “Well, okay, I'll do that. But I'm gonna call myself the publisher, instead of calling myself just the business manager.” I was putting on a fancy hat and saying, “Okay, I'll call myself the newspaper pilot.”

It was this game, you know, this fancy title... I was the only guy that had the audacity to take that title.

Actually, I brought in people because the job was sufficient that there was really a need for business managers. And when I left there as a senior, the people that I had trained for the following year were people who were meant to serve in the job. 

N-L: How did the News-Letter impact your life as a college student? What made it important to you while you were here?

AC: Well, it was important in so much as I saw it as an opportunity to use the courses that I was taking... Basically, I was a business manager and a business student.

My problem was that I had no background, up until I was appointed to run the paper. Previous business managers hadn't brought in associates to see how to do it. We were only there on Fridays to stuff the newspaper into envelopes and mail it out to the parents and advertisers. So I really got it completely cold and had to pick it up as best I could. 

N-L: How do you remember The News-Letter impacting the student body at Hopkins?

AC: Well, the paper was all important, I think, in bringing together the diversity of both the town students, as well as those who were living on campus, as well as the various other factors that were a part of the University. And so The News-Letter was the glue that brought together sports, activities of the various organizations, the various kinds of activities that were going on at the time with new buildings going up, the new professors... it was the voice of what was going on at the University. And you must remember, I was there when it was all men. Only about 400 of us in each class. We knew pretty much all of the people in our class. It was a small university at that point in the early 1960s.

N-L: How did the administration feel about the paper?

AC: That was hands off. Well, we got into trouble because we had an April Fools’ edition where we had libeled one of the professors by saying he was going to change his views and become Communist or something. So he had threatened the vice president that he was going to sue. So I got called up to Homewood House, along with the editors, where we had to explain our April Fool's edition to the vice president. One of the things that saved us there was I had decided not to mail it out to the parents, or to do the distribution to Goucher or Towson State, which I usually did every week with the paper. So we didn't go off campus. And so that did save the day for us on that.

But again, they were pretty much hands off. Never ever came to me and said, “You're spending too much money” or “You’re not trying to find more money?” It was pretty much hands off, as it should have been.

N-L: And how do you feel that your time at The News-Letter helped prepare you for after college?

AC: I went into the newspaper business, worked for a number of large newspapers during the course of my 20s and my 30s. And so a lot of that has application to what I saw in the jobs that I had at these various large papers.

N-L: Were you doing business for them as well?

AC: I was there in the advertising department. I was sort of floating around among all the various departments doing various analytical and statistical jobs. I was doing the kind of thing that we used to do with The News-Letter in some ways, kind of figuring out what we can do to make a profit.

N-L: Is there anything you’d like to add? 

AC: One of the things that might be interesting is that tobacco ads were very much a large part of what paid for the paper back then. And at some point I think we probably said, “No more. We're not going to take any tobacco ads.”

N-L: Where did most of your advertisements come from?

AC: Well, we had, of course, the national advertising, which came out of an agency in New York, which handled people like Ford. We had a lot of advertisers that were recruiting ads for the engineers. A lot of it was various companies seeking to influence the interviews that they were going to have with the engineering graduates.

We had Ford Motor running a lot, Chevrolet running a lot. The tobacco companies would run a lot on the local steam, we had a lot of the local habitat over on Greenwood Avenue and some of the guys like the bookstore, and the pharmacy and some of the restaurants. 

The job was endless. If I wanted to go out and sell more ads I could have done so. I wish I had but again, I didn't think of selling more ads. Really I was thinking more of getting the paper out. It was a big, big job as it was. As with any of these things, I mean, how many stories can you write every week? You’ve gotta study, too.

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