In 1946 newspapers across the world published articles as the first meeting of the United Nations was held in London, the bikini made its debut on runways in Paris, Italy became a republic, and the world’s first theme park, Santa Claus Land, opened in Santa Claus, Indiana. At Willamette University, the Collegian was concerned about a Dr. Robert E. Lantz, who had thrown out his shoulder while sneezing.
Though perhaps not always reporting on the most earth shattering, breaking news à la the Associated Press or BBC, the Collegian has been steadily covering stories that capture Willamette students’ attention for nearly 150 years. Yes, that long—our small, student-run paper was founded in 1875 and has been steadily in print or online since 1889.
Perusing the Hatfield archives one can easily explore online scans of Collegian all the way back to that very first print. Every issue details the minutiae of the life of a Bearcat, from student elections to athletic wins to relevant cultural phenomena. No matter the year it’s evident the Collegian has remained true to its motto, “Your College, Your Newspaper, Your Stories”—though in 1875 this was phrased as “Devoted to Literature and Information Incident to the Student Life.”
In past issues we learn of beloved traditions such as May Day celebrations and campus-wide “Glee” competitions, read advertisements for businesses that haven’t existed for fifty years (Bob’s 19¢ Hamburgers) and, soberingly, see the faces of the people who are no longer with us. Various stories lend a different level of humanity to Willamette’s long history, in which we are able to see ourselves in students born decades prior, such as the seniors in 1933 who formed a committee in order to do away with a newly instituted written exam required for graduation.
In a way these trivialities captured by the Collegian are invaluable. They’re one of the most continuous documentations of our university’s history and a window into a past era that, despite being wrought with its own failings, has a certain nostalgia. Larger papers may have covered events that rocked the world, but the Collegian has documented the little bubble of Willamette’s own campus climate.
However, all this talk of a quaint student paper isn’t to say the Collegian hasn’t had its moments of glory. Over the years the publication has won recognition from the National Pacemaker Awards and the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, and though most consistently staff has pushed out articles about Blitz the Bearcat or changes to the Goudy menu, the Collegian has received the occasional chance to cover larger stories and interview bigger names.
It’s a good thing we didn't let the fame of interviewing 1940s Senator John Hubert Hall get to our heads—though in 1908 copies of the Collegian were selling for a dollar, at some point in the next hundred years they became free. Today’s students can now find copies available for the taking in various spots across campus, including the library, the UC and the Bistro.
This year, like every other, the Collegian will continue to print stories of our campus, our students and the news that happens at or affects our university, whether that be a presidential visit or a nutria sighting. Some things stay the same, even if we no longer have advertisements for egregiously cheap off-campus meals.