COLUMN: Former EIC, adviser reminiscences on The News

COLUMN: Former EIC, adviser reminiscences on The News

Lola Burnham, Former Editor-in-Chief

A lot of the news events in the 1982-83 school year would seem familiar to readers of today’s Daily Eastern News. A faculty union contract was up for ratification. Room-and-board increases were under consideration. O’Brien Field was getting a “facelift.” The big news at the end of the spring semester was Eastern President Daniel E. Marvin resigning to head up a bank.

Some things have changed, though. In 1982-83, the bar entry age in Charleston was still 19 even though the drinking age had recently been changed to 21. Read it and weep, students.

In 1982-83, The Daily Eastern News regularly published 16- and 24-page papers, an 8-page entertainment supplement every Friday called “The Verge” (short for “On the Verge of the Weekend”), and numerous special sections like dining guide and car care guides. It was home to two local comic strips, drawn by Eastern students. In that year, it was not uncommon to have two pages per issue dedicated to opinion and op-ed pieces like guest columns and letters to the editor.

This was all pre-Internet, of course, and the News was the central place to go for information on what was happening on campus and in Charleston.

Looking through the 1982-83 editions brings all of that year flooding back. That was the year I was the News’ editor in chief, just one person in a dedicated group of people who were full-time students but also basically full-time journalists, working six nights and five days a week to put out a daily print paper. That dedication is something that hasn’t changed in the 100-plus years that the News has been covering the campus. Generations of students have summoned that dedication to make sure that life and work at Eastern is chronicled, writing “the first draft” of Eastern’s history every day.

All that dedication paid off with the News’ winning of a national Pacemaker Award for the 1982-83 school year, one of six chosen from a field of more than 600 student newspapers by the Associated Collegiate Press. That award was a direct reflection of the hard work of those student journalists.

And that’s what I’m thinking of now at this time when the News is de-emphasizing print in favor of its online presence. Not the stories. Not the comic strips. Flipping through those old papers, what stands out to me are the people whose names make the bylines. We were forged as journalists in the crucible of The Daily Eastern News’ newsroom, grew together to adulthood, launched our careers together, and have watched and cheered as we have all grown and adapted to changing times. The student journalists who put out the News today will find that holds true, whether they are printing or posting. In writing Eastern’s first draft of history, in holding those in power to account, in covering the heart and soul of this campus, they are but the latest links in a chain that goes back to 1915 when four students decided the school needed a paper to cover the football team. And they will not be the last.

Lola Burnham, class of 1983, is a retired journalist and retired Eastern journalism professor.