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observer 50th anniversary

Observer Editorial: A promise, a purpose, a newspaper turns 50

| Wednesday, November 2, 2016

On Nov. 3, 1966, a story in the first issue of The Observer ran under the headline “A Promise, A Purpose, A Newspaper is Born.” As The Observer celebrates its 50th anniversary this week, we encourage our readers to reflect on student journalism’s place not only on Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s campuses, but nationwide.

The decline of print journalism has been well publicized in recent years, and college campuses are especially susceptible to this phenomenon. Many student publications that used to be printed daily — every weekday, for most college papers — have cut back to two or three editions per week.

The Observer is far from immune to this pinch. But we also firmly believe in the importance of providing a daily platform for news and discussion for the student body, alumni, faculty, staff and other community members here at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.

Every day, The Observer publishes voices from all corners of campus, the United States and even the world. The 50 years of tireless work by the thousands of students who have been a part of this publication represent one of the most complete sources of preserved memory found on campus.

It is not our intention to use this editorial as a pulpit for self-congratulation. Rather, we want to highlight the important role student journalism holds nationwide. Editorially independent publications, like The Observer, enable student-to-student dialogue. College newspapers foster infamous debates in the opinion sections, spread campus news, expose students to entertainment and arts happenings, chronicle the athletic achievements of peers, serve as a check on administration and perform a number of other roles.

Independent student journalism is one of the most important contributors to campus conversations. Over the past few years, excellent pieces highlighting campus sexual assault have appeared in newspapers like Indiana University’s Indiana Daily Student and DePaul University’s The DePaulia. The Observer also ran a series looking at the issue last year.

The Observer broke the news of University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh’s death in February 2015. We were also the primary source for the following week’s coverage, as people streamed into campus from around the world to attend the funeral and honor Fr. Ted’s memory.

One of the paper’s most important roles is providing a platform for the voices of those who might otherwise be deprived of an outlet. In recent years, we’ve highlighted the struggles Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students with disabilities face every day, as well as the resources on each campus available to those who face mental health challenges.

All of this coverage is important — because there is no other publication as actively involved in uncovering and reporting daily happenings at the collegiate level.

In addition to providing a platform for discussion, student newspapers also demand a level of professionalism for their content. We work to inspire conversations that push beyond today’s social media rants. Our editorial staff determines whether every single article we publish meets our standards, and unfortunately, there are some that do not.

That editorial staff is composed entirely of students — it does not have faculty oversight. Students do all of our production and layout. Students take our photos, and students produce all of our graphics. Students coordinate all our advertising and make our business decisions. The only non-student on our payroll is our office coordinator Debra de St. Jean, who you can read about on page 2 of this issue. She, like her predecessor Shirley Grauel before her, is the glue that holds us all together.

As students, we have unique angles and perspectives on events and how they affect our campus. It’s the same for student newspapers across the country. College journalism provides a unique voice that epitomizes the phrase “from the bottom up.” We are the outlet for everyone — from incoming freshmen to university presidents — to have a voice on campus.

And with that, please excuse us — we’ve got a paper to print.

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