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Collegian celebrating its 120th year

December 7, 2011
By Tony Phifer

CSU's award-winning student newspaper has been published continuously since 1891 while producing some of the nation's top journalists.

The original staff of the Rocky Mountain Collegian in 1891.The Rocky Mountain Collegian is celebrating 120 years of continuous operation as CSU’s student newspaper.

The Collegian is the oldest continuously published student newspaper in the Rocky Mountain region and one of the oldest in the country, after debuting in December of 1891.

“The Collegian has always been an important voice on the CSU campus,” said Larry Steward, president of Rocky Mountain Student Media Corp., which operates the Collegian, CSU-TV, KCSU and College Avenue Magazine. “The Collegian has always provided a tremendous learning opportunity for students whether they are going into journalism or not.”

Strong campus voice

The Collegian’s first staff included 23-year-old Albert J. Sedgwick as editor and at least one female – somewhat unusual for the time. Since then, the newspaper has earned a reputation for being willing to take controversial stand. The Collegian backed women’s suffrage in the early 1900s and the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

Today’s Collegian staff includes about 100 paid staffers and several volunteers. The newspaper, TV station, radio station and magazine have 225 combined paid employees and more than 100 volunteers.

“The Collegian has always been a product of who’s in the room,” said Steward, a CSU alum who was editor in 1972-73. “What’s really remained the same is the student control of content. It has been a great educational laboratory for students to prepare them for the working world.”

Outstanding achievements

The newspaper has won numerous awards over the years, and last year was named one of the top three collegiate newspapers in the country by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Former Collegian editor Larry Steward is now the president of Rocky Mountain Student Media Corp., which includes the newspaper and other media entities. It has also produced a number of talented journalists who have gone on to achieve great things in media, including: Jim Sheeler, who won a 2006 Pulitzer Prize while working at the Rocky Mountain News;  Liz Spayd, the first female managing editor of the Washington Post; Fred Brown, longtime political columnist for the Denver Post; Kelly Kennedy, a reporter for  USA Today and published author; Vikki Porter, who was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize at the Denver Post; and Erin Skarda, a reporter for Time Magazine.

Keeping pace with technology

Like most newspapers, the Collegian has faced challenges associated with fast-evolving technology and an audience relying on electronic media over printed materials. Still, Steward said 85 percent of the Collegian audience reads the printed product despite increased online traffic. The newspaper’s website recently hit 1 million page views and 350,000 site visitors for the year.

“When I was in school, I sold ads, created editorial cartoons, was news editor and eventually editor-in-chief. There was much more of an emphasis on being diversified,” he said. “Interestingly, that’s the path journalism is taking these days, with students encouraged to learn writing, photography and video. We’ve come full circle, really.”

In addition to beefing up their technology, the Collegian has moved toward a more eco-friendly business, using recycled newsprint and other practices that are easy on the environment.

In the end, though, Steward said the Collegian survives and thrives because of a simple philosophy.

“We emphasize two things,” he said. “First, is community service – our role as a newspaper on this campus. The second is providing experience for our staff members. Running a newspaper is a great challenge but our students learn about deadlines, about responsibility, about how things work in the real world. It’s an amazing educational laboratory.”