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A Promise, A Purpose

Douglas Farmer | Wednesday, November 2, 2011

In November 1966, John Lennon met Yoko Ono, California elected Ronald Reagan governor and David Schwimmer – better known as Ross Geller – was born.

In less culture-shifting news, The Observer published its first edition Nov. 3, 1966. On that front page sits an editorial titled, “A Promise, A Purpose, A Newspaper Is Born.”

Ignoring the capitalization mistakes in that headline, and the subsequent typos throughout both the editorial and the entire issue, The Observer announced its lofty goals from its outset.

“The Observer … in the words of its editors, will do just what its name proclaims: observe, remark, notice, comment and adhere.”

Though 45 years later we have literally printed a blank front page in what could be misinterpreted as shameless self-promotion, The Observer’s intentions remain the same: observe, remark, notice, comment and adhere.

Observe: Notre Dame students either do not know The Observer has a website, or they do not care.

Remark: This ignorance is wholly unnecessary.

Notice: Considering the universality of and dependence on laptops and smart phones, this ignorance is also surprising.

Comment: Even if The Observer is available around campus every day, why not check its website or Twitter handles before heading to class?

Adhere: Today’s front page and the 11 pages following it are an admitted risk, but they are a risk with the potential of a great reward.

The self-righteous argument for this “blank” paper is that it is The Observer’s job to inform its audience of anything and everything it should know. Well, The Observer’s online presence is growing. From photo galleries to Twitter updates to live blogs, items are available at ndsmcobserver.com that are not available in the pages here.

I believe, and only hope my staff agrees, this web content is worthwhile. Thus, it is The Observer’s job to inform its audience about this web content.

Our gray filler boxes and subtle changes in the print edition simply were not getting the job done. We had to grab your attention. First, we completely revamped our website, making it cleaner, more organized and more user-friendly. Now, we are letting you know about it.

Undoubtedly, some will be infuriated by today’s paper. I can only imagine how painful it is to actually pay attention to your boring econ professor, but you and I both know you have an iPhone or Android in your pocket, so go ahead and download The Observer app.

To those traditionalists who refuse to abandon the print edition: Well, first, a heartfelt thank you. You give aspiring journalists hope for the industry.

Secondly, a reassurance — The Observer is not going anywhere. This issue already upset a few of our advertisers, and for that I am sorry and accept fault for not giving them further advance notice.

When Stephen M. Feldhaus and Robert Sam Anson led the charge 45 years ago, they did so white-knuckled, not knowing if there would be a second year or a even second edition of The Observer. They certainly did not have time to dream of a second decade.

I would argue in the 45 years since, The Observer has improved drastically, hopefully on more profound levels than a lack of typos. Our website, app and general online presence are examples of this constant state of upgrade.

In the first edition of The Observer, Feldhaus and Anson wrote, “To uncover the truth and to report it accurately. This is our goal. This is our purpose.”

That is still our goal. That is still our purpose.

Don’t worry. We will be back on your newsstands tomorrow. But in the meantime, check online. The truth is uncovered and accurately reported there, too.