When I was asked to write a guest editorial about the ‘Burnian, my first thought was, Gee, so much has changed.
I arrived at Blackburn in August 1989 and was pleased to discover that the ‘Burnian was the oldest college newspaper in Illinois. Pretty cool, I thought. At that time, the Faculty Advisor was Sam Meredith (in the Political Science Department).
Gee, Sam has retired–so much has changed.
Or, has it? On April’s Fool Day 2016, I visited the College Archives in Lumpkin to see for myself. The student worker at the reception desk smiled and led me to a back room; Lynn Armstrong showed me exactly which file drawers to open.
Oh boy, here’s the first issue I remember! I start reading ‘Burnians from my first years here; wow, headlines don’t seem so very different from recent news: Blackburn Welcomes New President, Team Posts Win, Celebration for M.L.K. Day, Change and Conflict at Blackburn. I read lively exchanges in the letters-to-the-editor page; I read complaints about the food service. Ah, here are some differences: a horoscope, a poetry page, photos of the football team.
In the early 1990s, any work for the ‘Burnian was completely voluntarily–no Work Program hours, no course credits. Editors, writers, lay-out folk went to the Macoupin County Enquirer office late on a Wednesday (after the local weekly had been “put to bed”), often pulling all-nighters in the days before digital means. The chaos seemed to work just fine; eight to ten issues came out each year.
One of the May 1992 ‘Burnians includes this disclaimer: “The ‘Burnian is an independent organization created for the purpose of providing a vehicle for student opinion. The ‘Burnian is not an official publication of Blackburn College. The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Blackburn College.”
By 1993, after years of the ‘Burnian bouncing from one department to another, it made sense to house the paper in the Department of English, and I became the ‘Burnian Faculty Advisor. An editor from the 1990s, Josh Adair (now Dr. Adair, Associate Professor of Literature), wrote me a few weeks ago:
“When I assumed the role of editor, we were working in a cramped office behind Clegg Chapel. I recall numerous late night sessions with folks like Susan Kraushaar (now Aebel) and Graquel Hutchinson. . . . A number of writers were involved, many of whom also worked in The Writer’s Block.
“I recall it being a lot of fun and quite important to a small group of us. My impression was that campus-wide interest in it waxed and waned even during my four years. It was a meaningful experience, though, and one that I’ve drawn upon in recent years in working with the newspaper staff at Murray State.”
All in all, I hope that Josh’s remarks apply to the ‘Burnian staff today. Despite new technology and changes in structure and supervision, I hope that ‘Burnian writers and editors will always have a meaningful experience!