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Column: Daily life makes The Observer go

Mike Gilloon | Friday, November 3, 2006

You might think we’re patting ourselves on the back. That may be.

But as The Observer marks its 40th anniversary today, it’s more likely that we’re just pleased to have been around for so long – and proud that the paper still matters.

Despite our belief in this paper that is such a part of our lives, it’s not always easy to create.

Sometimes classes are missed, term papers are put off and Thursday night bar crawls take a back seat. But, somehow, the paper gets out every day.

Everyone does his part.

Those of you who work here – or have roommates who do – know that often it takes until four or five in the morning to get the paper finished. It’s people like these that keep the paper alive.

The Observer is Shirley Grauel, our office manager who’s made this place run for 26 years. The Observer is a timid freshman, walking into the South Dining Hall basement to ask about writing Interhall football. The Observer is a frustrated alum writing in the Viewpoint pages, chastising the changes that the University has made since his time. The Observer is Jack Radican, the only person on campus allowed to drive on the sidewalks and the guy who makes sure almost 10,000 Observers get delivered every day.

The bottom line is, we need a school paper. Football games and Masses, dining hall dinners and Interhall competitions, Senior Week and Frosh-O – all these aspects of campus life make Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s close communities. But even with the unity that has made this little northern Indiana community famous, something is needed to bring it all together.

That’s where The Observer comes in. Everyone can read it and anyone can send a Letter to the Editor or place an advertisement.

What makes The Observer unique is that it’s not controlled by the administration or student government or Charlie Weis. We have relationships with these people and organizations, and we appreciate them.

But The Observer is more than one voice, more than one group.

It takes the longest word in our short masthead – independent – seriously. Our independence is what makes us relevant.

Our staff is a mix of nearly every group on campus. On any night there could be an English buff working with an accounting major to put out the Scene section. There could be a pro-choicer working with a pro-lifer on the Viewpoint section. There might even be a Catholic and a Hindu writing an editorial together.

It’s a place where everyone’s voice is respected, though not always agreed with.

It’s also a place that saves the many voices, events and stories on our campuses for history’s sake.

It records big decisions, like “The Vagina Monologues” controversy, and big victories, like last year’s USC thriller. Stories like these often dominate our headlines, but they aren’t why The Observer is essential.

It’s the daily life, the minutiae, the little things that give the campus a rhythm and make The Observer’s pages unique.

The Observer thrives on the Question of the Day, the investigative report, the emotional Interhall photo and the opposing Viewpoint letters.

It’s these photos and stories you see taped to doorways and around window frames in places like Howard and LeMans, Dillon and Pangborn, McGlinn and Stanford.

It attempts to answer your questions.

What’s going on? Who’s in trouble? What happened yesterday?

No other media outlet covers our campuses this extensively. No other publication can distribute thousands of copies all over our schools every day. No other paper asks more questions about Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s than The Observer.

I have no doubt The Observer will be around 40 years from now. It might have a different layout and a different building. It might have a higher circulation and color every day.

But as long as there are students on campus, it will be here.

It must.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Mike Gilloon at mgilloon@nd.edu