From the archives: College Journalism

From the archives brings you old news today. As time passes, the news we report on changes, as does the way we report on it. Conversely, we’ve been covering some of the same issues since 1872. Unsurprisingly, the late nineteenth century was not immune to moral panic about kids being too overwhelmed to think critically – though it is a little wild how much of this anonymous proclamation could have been written today (archaic stlye and gendered language aside).

1893: vol. 22, issue 8.

The distinctive feature of the present era is its journalistic tendency. Men are writing, and from the printing presses of the world are pouring forth numberless magazines, pamphlets and newspapers, so much so that one is forced to think that the super-abundance of literature must be either because we think more than our forefathers, or else we love to lose the thought in its decorations. It is to be feared that ideas are at a premium, while the setting is the all important requisite. Yet if every evil has its accompanying blessing, and every night is a prophecy of the coming day, it may be that this generation of scribblers will benefit mankind, making it better, more thoughtful and intelligent. Be that as it may, the world demands writers, and if any person expects through the press to sway men he must be able to express his ideas, and do it well. The paper of the future will doubtless be a summary. Our present day seer would predict that the “Review of Reviews” will be the style of the magazine the boys and girls of to-morrow will need. The world is too busy to read long and verbose articles. “Thoughts, facts and lives are what we want,” says the toiler as he lifts his head above the surrounding ignorance. How shall the need be met is the question for the present century to solve.

Admit, if you will, that from the colleges and seminaries of our country the young men and women will go forth who shall speak in the coming day through the press; grant that education develops mind, and that mind sways men, what more beneficial than colleges, and what more important than the college paper? It is not expected or even presumed that a college magazine will be perfection. The editors may be “very smart,” Drydens if you wish, yet the singer of eighteen is not the poet of three score years. Time gives ripeness, experience teaches and the cleverest youth will have to do better.

From a college paper those who write for it will gain a more thorough mastery of expression. The writer knows that his readers are judging him by his production, and no “effusion of an empty brain” will satisfy them. To live and succeed he must have something to say. He must speak to, for and of men, and to attain this object he must make mankind his study—and what a study are students when free from home influences and restraints! The recluse may be a “bookish” writer, but he will lack the most essential quality—a living, personal, intimate knowledge of his subject. There is a vast difference between knowing an object from one’s own experience and knowing it as perceived and reported by another; both are limited, it is true, but one much more than the other. He must also create and establish a sympathy between himself and his readers. They are to be won. With active brain and critical mental acumen they will detect the least mistake, see through all shams and falsehoods and consequently will appreciate the good. The style must be lively, direct and readable, and one needs but the experience of a reporter to know how hard it is to “write up” the commonality of every day life, making it more interesting. The vision must be clear, the hearing acute in order that everything may be perceived and the more we see of the base ball games or of the gymnasium exhibition the better our description. Some having eyes see not, and ears, hear not; but the aspirant for literary honors must use both. Self should also be lost in the knowledge of the responsibility of the position. The readers are to be edified and pleased and their lives made larger by the wisdom gained. And so while for the writer awaits the drudgery of research, the weary hours when the brain refuses to work and mental life is almost at a stand still, yet the remembrance that he demands and influences a larger and more intelligent audience than many of the world’s great men should be an incentive to noble effort and earnest endeavor.

Then there are advantages accruing to the reader of the college paper. To the absent student it is a memorial of by gone days. The “old” boy looking over the new boy’s production, perhaps with a smile, recalls familiar faces, loved retreats, and the many happy though busy hours of college life, days when the mental energy and bodily vigor were taxed to their utmost, joyful hours sine cura.

“And whilst pensive memory lingers

O er those scenes to be forgotten never”

in his imagination his youth returns. He is kept in touch with the present generation, appreciates their needs more fully and sees wherein they have failed. Noticing the advancement of the advancing years, he can judge of his college’s relation to its age, and consequently must be a better adviser. He understands how religious, studious, advanced, noble and ennobling are the young people of the university in which he is interested. The social gatherings and receptions, the enjoyment of the festal occasions, the appreciation of the athletic sports, the contests in political life, and the energy manifested by the literary societies, if narrated, and they generally are, are perused with imparting interest. Nowhere else can the reader feel the thrilling and rejuverating [sic] powers of youth so fully and so powerfully as through a college paper, and from no source can he gain a more reliable knowledge of the progress and work of his alma mater.

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