When I was but a wee freshman, the prospects of climbing up the Collegian ladder were certainly enticing. I started out as a news writer, but oh what prestige, the thought of overseeing the frenzy of production and embarrassingly-late hours in Miller, at the cost of homework, social life, and, oh yeah, sleep.
Here I am, three years later, with severe senioritis, homework piling up and more sleep-deprived than I care to admit, but mostly humbled by the privilege of being the Executive Editor the year the Collegian turns 90.
In planning for our celebration, I have been honored to work with the friendliest of staffs at Archives in the basement of Kinlaw. They keep a collection of Collegians, so naturally, we approached them about helping us pick out key papers from the past ten decades to proudly display in our gallery.
The first thing I learned was that the publication itself was established in 1915, called the New Era. In 1925, it was renamed the Asbury Collegian and became a more formal newspaper.
Looking through the years, the Collegian has followed two world wars (the second of which was when the paper saw its first female editor due to a shortage of men on campus), the Great Depression, Korea, the Cold War and Vietnam.
It has followed Asbury through the birth of modern advertising and the moon landing, Civil Rights, the AIDS epidemic and 9/11.
The Collegian reported on the death of John Wesley Hughes, and closely followed the building of the auditorium named after him. It documented all of the revivals since 1915, which most commonly happen in February (I’m holding out for next semester).
It followed fashion on campus, homecomings, clubs, the birth of open dorm and the inaugurations of presidents.
But perhaps my favorite was redefining “newsworthy” and learning that for several years there was a section called “Personals” dedicated in its entirety to short personal announcements as menial as “Suzy went home to visit her parents this weekend and bought three new dresses.” (I may exaggerate, but you’ll have to come to our party to read these for yourselves — they’re worth it).
As I sifted through the 90 years, the writing was old and eloquent; it was simple and truthful. And I saw countless faces and read countless names on yellowing paper, faces and names of students I never knew and will never know.
It gave me chills.
At the heart of every issue, I saw people, faces, names — community. For all of its use in the watchdog role and speaking on behalf of the public, journalism revealed itself to me through fragile, slowly deteriorating Collegians as a record-keeper, an intimate witness of the lives and thoughts of the communities it serves.
Journalism here upheld its crucial responsibility to capture the culture and the people of a small, Christian school in central Kentucky, to keep the people it served at the center. Such respect arose in me for the journalists who documented the photos and thoughts and literary works of this campus so beautifully for 90 years, and I am greatly humbled to be in their company.
Who am I to be holding the position that I hold? I’m following in the footsteps of brilliant minds, dedicated to journalism and storytelling, pursuant of truth and integrity. I’m following in the footsteps of students who established a publication by students for students, dedicated above all things to God and to the community that gave them the very stories they wrote.
I could say my love for the Collegian grew, and that would be true, but the deeper truth is that I learned about my love for this institution, for our small corner of Kentucky and the richness of our community, for all that has happened here throughout the years. I love you, Asbury, and I think the past Collegian staffs really did, too.
It is the desire and goal, then, of this staff to keep Christ and our love for the Asbury community at the center of our publication. This is our community, too, and we want it represented well, documented with care and respect. Our predecessors would have also wanted that.
On behalf of the Asbury Collegian, past and present, thank you for letting us tell your stories and be a platform for your thoughts over the course of 90 years. Thank you for giving us a voice — your voice. Thank you for trusting us to create records of our community for future Asburian generations to appreciate (and also to point and laugh at our fashion trends – what will they think of skinny jeans and clunky scarves, not to mention Birks and socks?). It is truly an honor.