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Saint Mary’s plays unique role at Observer

Kelly Meehan | Friday, November 3, 2006

For 40 years, The Observer has served not only as a pipeline of campus news, athletic results and opinions, but also as a link between Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame.

The delicate balance of this relationship has allowed the College access to and coverage within this daily publication, but four decades of unity have not come without the yearning for periodical independence from both schools.

When The Observer debuted on Nov. 3, 1966 it contained the first of many Saint Mary’s articles, but the publication did not don the phrase “Serving The Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College Community” until April 1, 1968 – a decision that was not welcome by all Saint Mary’s students at the time.

In a March 27, 1968 Letter to the Editor, College student Barbara Gibson called for the creation of an independent Saint Mary’s publication, but said she is “bothered” by the idea that there are very few women on campus with the “energy or foresight to start our own newspaper.”

Gibson’s letter ran just two weeks after The Observer reported on March 15 that Saint Mary’s had just replaced its newspaper “The Crux” with “The Innovator” – a “revolutionized” publication that boasted “a new layout, a new type face and was printed on different paper.”

The changes were not enough to prevent the dissolve of “The Innovator”, however and The Observer soon became a primary source of daily campus news.

To better incorporate College news into the paper, the editorial position of Saint Mary’s Editor was created in November 1969. Women from the College have since progressed through various editorial positions including the first female editor in chief, Marti Hogan Pupillo.

The consistency of The Observer’s prevalence on campus led to the creation of an office in the basement of Regina Hall. The computer-less and seemingly non-functioning space was replaced in March 2005 by a furnished Observer hub in the basement of the College’s student center.

While the paper has a definite presence within the Saint Mary’s community, the past 40 years have not been smooth sailing for the dual-school publication.

The most recent desire to renege on the College’s commitment to the publication occurred during April 2006, when students discussed demanding a refund of their $3 annual Observer fee after the Jockular cartoon referred to Saint Mary’s students as “parasites.”

“It is distressing that Saint Mary’s students help fund editors who choose to include degrading comments in our campus newspaper,” wrote then junior Megan Osberger in an April 21, 2006 Letter to the Editor.

“Why didn’t the current Notre Dame editors of The Observer understand how unacceptable this is in a professional publication?” she wrote.

The challenge for Saint Mary’s to create its own professional publication has not been fruitless. Alternative Saint Mary’s solo publications thrive on campus, but students have yet to make plans for the College-run daily that Gibson encouraged in 1968.

While the potential to create the publication exists, Saint Mary’s students continue to write for The Observer as it strives to serve both campuses.