97 Years of WSU Student Newspaper Now Online

OGDEN, Utah – Anyone looking to take a trip back in time need look no further than the new, completely searchable, digital archives of  The Signpost— first known as the Weber Herald— and Weber State University’s student voice for the past 97 years.

Unbinding history
      

University Archives and Stewart Library Digital Collections associate curator, Jamie Weeks and 12 other Archives/Digitization employees toiled from Sept. 1, 2013 until Dec.31, 2013 to unbind all the yearly collections of the paper. Then Weeks drove the papers to iArchives in Lindon, Utah, where high-resolution, large scanners could handle the oversized news pages.

 Weeks applied for and received a $35,000 Library Services & Technology Act (LSTA) grant to help with the expense of scanning and digitizing the student newspapers from 1917-2010. From an archivist’s perspective, Weeks said, “student journalism is the heart of campus history.”

“I become very passionate about it because from the day we started the project, it changed our lives,” Weeks said. “There is not a day in University Archives that we don’t use the student newspaper to find information. There seriously isn’t.”
 
1936 Signpost Staff
Back when WSU was still an academy located on 25th Street in downtown Ogden, the first student newspaper was the “Weber Herald,” which ran from 1917 to 1935. Looking through the new digital collections website, ads describing 15-cent haircuts and candy shops are commonplace. As are ads for 25-cent meals from the old Broadway Café, a popular diner in 1917 located at 366 25th Street — now home to Ogden City’s Municipal Gardens.

Weeks and her employees have seen every page of the newspaper during the archiving process. The novelties captured in print stand out, she said.

“The most interesting thing all of us saw was how political the campus was during the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s,” she said, noting the Vietnam War protests that took place at WSU. “I think politically, the campus was much more active than it is now.”

Although the full collection includes nearly everything from 1917 to 2010, there are a few missing years. From 1935-37, campus news was disseminated by announcements posted on bulletin boards known as “the sign post.” In 1937, those posts led to a new student newspaper named “The Signpost.” Weeks and her team are eager to find the 1935-37 bulletins, but she has heard they may have been destroyed during the 1950s when Weber State College moved from the lower campus to its location above Harrison Boulevard.

“Rumor is that a custodian who was moving things took all of those boxes and put them in the incinerator,” Weeks lamented. “We’re missing a big chunk of history. If the bulletins were in there, they are forever lost.”

The history that has stayed intact, however, has benefitted the university and community, and has been used for thesis projects, presentations and research. Due to the Stewart Library’s connection with the Digital Public Library of America, the archives are available not only on the Stewart Library’s website, but also nationwide for anyone to access.

“Honestly, we would be lost without it. I can’t even imagine how we’d find information,” Weeks said. “For me, it really is the heart and the history of the university moving forward, and even though we are in a digital age, it’s the student newspaper that is going to provide us with the history to move forward.”

Student journalism grows with the university and industry

Sheree Josephson, WSU communication department chair, said there are stark differences in the news industry from when she was “The Signpost” advisor from 1996-2001. Although “The Signpost” printed three days a week, just as the current publishing schedule does, the number of pages and special editions was much larger. Monday’s edition could be as large as 24 pages with a tabloid section, and she recalled Wednesday’s reaching 48 pages some weeks.

“You used to have double the size of the print edition,” she said.

The reduced cost and complication of color printing is another convenience the digital age has brought to the newspaper industry that was not available in the past.

 “I remember when we printed color it had to be something really worthwhile. It used to increase the cost by as much as four times,” Josephson said.

The Signpost now prints full color each issue, but much of its focus is moving to online content. Over the years, regardless of color or black-and-white printing, the student newspaper has won a number of national, regional and local awards for everything from ads to photography, news coverage to columns.

Students leave a print-worthy legacy

Colleen Mewing understands the importance of archiving information for the future. As a previous editor-in-chief, sports editor and news reporter with The Signpost from 1982-85, she has translated that experience into her daily duties as a data configuration manager at Hill Air force Base. She said archives tell the story.
 
Colleen Mewing,
Signpost staffer,
1982-1985
Having those archives available allows people to go back in time and see what was happening during a certain period and see the progression that was made from that time forward,” Mewing said, noting she uses archives every day at her job.

Mewing recalled an editorial she wrote and published on Election Day asking readers to vote Democrat. That editorial landed her in the president’s office. She said her call-to-action made some community members upset and almost brought about censorship of The Signpost.

“They wanted to have the student body review all the articles before they went to print,” Mewing said. But she fought the controversy and met with Weber State’s president.

“I learned so much from that experience. It came around that The Signpost would not be censored, and no one would look at things before we published the articles,” she said. “It all worked out for the best, but I’ll never forget that, because I was in the hot seat for a while.”

Thanks to the digital archives, her editorial featured in Vol. 45, No. 11, printed on Nov. 6, 1984, can be found easily online for anyone to read.  

“Journalism becomes part of your blood; it’s a passion, and you can’t get rid of it. It will be a part of you forever,” Mewing said.

Over the course of time, student writers for “The Signpost” have come and gone, but what they’ve taken away from writing for the student newspaper remains with them forever.

“I learned more putting out that sports section twice a week than I ever learned in all the classes I ever took all together,” said Randy Hollis, “The Signpost” sports editor from 1973-74. Hollis has used his student journalism experience every day since graduation as a previous staff member for the Standard-Examiner, and current sports editor at the Deseret News.

Other students share his sentiments. Anne Rasmussen, a previous editor-in-chief from 1949-50, said writing for “The Signpost” was a nice way to get involved with all aspects of Weber State.

“It was a wonderful way to feel a part of the university and to get into all sides of it,” she said. “It was a nice way to get into the school.”

The complete digital collection is available online at http://dc.weber.edu/cdm/wsu. Anyone with information about the missing bulletins from 1935-37 is encouraged to contact Jamie Weeks.

Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.

For high-resolution photos, visit the following links:

http://wsuucomm.smugmug.com/Press-Release-Photos/2014-photos/May-2014/i-cFBsz3X/0/XL/P1120386-XL.jpg
 
http://wsuucomm.smugmug.com/Press-Release-Photos/2014-photos/May-2014/i
mJn4Krz/0/L/signpost%20staff%201936%20copy-L.jpg

http://wsuucomm.smugmug.com/Press-Release-Photos/2014-photos/May-2014/i-pvP6kx8/0/L/Signpost%20Staff%201959%20copy-L.jpg

http://wsuucomm.smugmug.com/Press-Release-Photos/2014-photos/May-2014/i-9MpnFJT/0/L/Signpoststaff001-L.jpg

http://wsuucomm.smugmug.com/Press-Release-Photos/2014-photos/May-2014/i-NtFkMsj/0/L/Signpoststaff003-L.jpg

http://wsuucomm.smugmug.com/Press-Release-Photos/2014-photos/May-2014/i-bTLzDMX/0/L/Signpoststaff006-L.jpg

To hear Signpost staff members talk about their experiences, watch the video produced for the 75th annual reunion.

http://youtu.be/Pb5mrLaOVzI

 
Contact:
Jamie Weeks, WSU Archives and Digital Collections associate curator
801-626-6486 • jweeks@weber.edu
Author:
Raychel Johnson, University Communications
801-626-7295 • racheljohnson6@weber.edu