Zurek reflects on 50 years of Loquitur

By Jerry Zurek
September 24, 2009

Shannon Keough

I’ve had the chance over the past weeks to review 50 years of Loquitur. It’s been a great trip, inspiring really, and I’d like to share a few of my impressions and conclusions.

The first thing that jumps out are the technological changes and the pace of change. The picture from the ’70s of 5 students sitting around a manual typewriter, not even an electric one, is the anchor at one end of the technology spectrum. This picture could have been taken in the ’60s or ’50s or even in 1910. The newsroom in those days was in the basement of the library and the darkroom in the basement of the Mansion, where ghost hauntings and other shenanigans occurred.

Computers came to Loquitur in 1982 with the move to the new Widener Center communication center. We hedged our bets and bought both typewriters and these new-fangled computers. Clearly, computers won and Loquitur became a leader in automated typesetting.

Current students’ eyes glaze over when I try to tell them about the printing process of the ’70s and ’80s in which editors used X-Acto knives to cut the galleys and molten wax and rolling pins to paste corrections. Hence the term cut and paste. The newsroom then literally had editors wielding potentially lethal razor blades to threaten late reporters.

As we move into the 21st century, the pace of change quickens and now journalists must master complex Adobe software. Add to that the necessity to blog, tweet and Facebook your stories, today’s journalists have a never-ending deadline.

The greatest technological change, of course, is that every single communication major now must master multimedia. Every reporter now must be a very good writer and also be able to use video, audio, photos, side shows, blogs, to tell a story.

Now more than ever, Loquitur works closely with WYBF and Loqation, the video edition. In January a new, more capable multimedia site will be launched. Currently Loquitur is collaborating with the Philadelphia Inquirer to mount a Loquitur site as part of the Inquirer’s college site.

While Loquitur has been a leading college paper in technology, the paper is also a mirror of cultural changes in the

world. Loquitur stories in the first decade, like the times of the early ’60s, as the college moved into the late ’60s, a few stories began to reflect the outside world — famine in Biafra, war protests. The early ’70s showed stories of Cabrini students protesting the Vietnam war and even holding a sit-in in the college president’s office.

The ground work is being laid in the decades of the 20th century that has now culminated in the current decade. As you scan the papers in the college archives, you will see reporters bringing ever-more-challenging stories into perspective for readers. Loquitur now is achieving national recognition for its social justice reporting of stories on global hunger, Iraqi refugees, fair trade, the environment.

The one unchanging aspect of Loquitur over 50 years, however, has been the dedication of so many students to producing a publication of such high quality, on deadline, every week.

The degree of student leadership is unparalleled. Many on and off campus are surprised to learn that retiring editors choose their successors, that editors come in over the summer to plan and prepare the first issue so that it comes out before most people have even found their classroom.

Editors select, assign and edit every single story every week, 25 weeks of the academic year. New reporters every year are quickly brought into the life of the paper and soon step up as assistants.

It is not unusual for a staff to work 48 hours on deadline with no sleep. This was true not just for 9/11 but for many major breaking news stories.

Each year’s staff sets new challenges and raises the bar for subsequent years. Each staff takes pride in being a leader in college journalism and part of a tradition of hundreds upon hundreds of Cabrini students and alumni.

As journalism now faces some of its greatest challenges ever, with newsrooms around the country being downsized and closed, many wonder what form journalism will take in the future. I am confident, nevertheless, that new Loquitur staffs will follow the tradition of former staffs and continue to report significant news in the most advanced media available.

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Jerry Zurek

Journalism prof focused on digital media, journalism for the common good, global issues of social justice, & helping students find good careers.

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