Five decades of student journalism

Wright State’s student-run newspaper The Guardian turns 50 this academic year

Leah Kelley, editor-in-chief of The Guardian

Leah Kelley, editor-in-chief of The Guardian, says while newspapers are focusing more on online content she hopes the student newspaper will remain a printed paper.

Its pages were laden with walls of text, blurry photos of a foreign-looking Wright State and ads for Dayton businesses that have long since closed their doors. Articles reporting on the growth of university and editorials criticizing the Vietnam War filled the four-page spread. The year was 1965, and these were the contents of The Guardian’s first issue.

March 19, 1965, Guardian front page

The first issue of The Guardian was published on March 19, 1965.

The following half-century would transform the student-run newspaper in ways the original editors might never have imagined.

In recent issues, The Guardian has become a polished and colorful piece of journalistic art. With high-resolution photographs, articles highlighting the ever-changing face of Wright State, riveting reports on national and international news, an advice column and much more, The Guardian has come a long way from its humble roots.

This academic year, the newspaper has reached a major milestone. In the coming months, The Guardian will celebrate its 50th year of production — that is, half a century of publishing university news, events, sports and people, as one of Wright State’s most beloved media.

Staffed by an ambitious team of writers, editors, photographers, accountants and businesspeople, The Guardian has maintained a longstanding tradition of student journalism at its finest.

Guardian from October 1973

The Guardian has always provided thorough coverage of campus events and news.

“In my time, The Guardian has evolved from a four-page black-ink daily to a weekly with as many as 32 pages, with a lot of color,” said Jeff John, Ph.D., associate professor of communication at Wright State.

John has advised the newspaper for nearly 25 years, witnessing the substantial growth in every area of the publication: the quality of its content, quantity of publications, visual appeal of the design and engagement with the student body.

“The paper has transitioned from outmoded production processes to state-of-the-art desktop publishing, acquired digital photography equipment and now publishes a digital version, viewable on any device,” said John.

While The Guardian operates as a successful student organization, fulfilling its duty to deliver quality news content to the university, it is also one of the largest student enterprises at Wright State. The Guardian manages a budget of about $100,000 every year, John said.

In spite of a shaky economy, the newspaper still works with dozens of advertisers to bring in the necessary funds to publish and distribute 5,000 copies of each weekly issue to 30 locations, on and off campus.

Guardian from November 1969

Archive issues of The Guardian are available on Wright State’s online Institutional Repository CORE Scholar.

Joanne Huist Smith, Wright State alumna who was the paper’s editor-in-chief in the mid-1990s, is amazed at the progress the newspaper has made since her tenure. Although the form of the paper has changed, she says the spirit has never wavered.

“Anytime there was an issue on campus, we tried to get to the bottom of it,” said Smith. “The role of any newspaper is to keep its readers informed — which is what The Guardian did and continues to do. It’s always been about writing stories that would provoke readers to make informed decisions.”

Informing the readership is the name of the game, says Leah Kelley, current Guardian editor-in-chief.

“Since our office is in the basement of the Student Union, we are the first to cover campus events and news,” said Kelley. “The Guardian is here for the students, as we are a student-run publication. Student interests always come first.”

But in a world where print journalism is on the decline and digital publications are sweeping the playing field, figuring out how to best meet student interests is a tall order. As it currently stands, The Guardian is known for its print publication more than its website — something unusual in the 21st century.

Guardian from April 2014

The Guardian now publishes once a week and features high-resolution photos and art and articles highlighting Wright State news and events, plus national and international news.

“There are big changes within the field of journalism right now,” said Kelley. “As The Guardian continues to exist on campus, future editors will have to deal with the huge changes that come with mostly switching to online.”

“However, I hope The Guardian always remains a printed paper that students can hold in their hands and read under their desk in class,” Kelley said.

Read current issues of The Guardian at Archive issues are available on Wright State’s online Institutional Repository CORE Scholar.

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