The Collegian has informed the campus of Bob Jones University through award-winning journalism throughout 35 years of changing staff members, production methods and publication schedules.
Betty Solomon, who teaches journalism classes in the Division of Communication, has served as The Collegian’s faculty adviser since 1987, the year the paper was founded.
“Our purpose is twofold: To serve as a lab for students who want training in journalism … and also to be of service to the University family, informing them, sometimes entertaining them and learning to create journalism that glorifies God,” she said.
Solomon believes the campus newspaper serves as an important historical record for BJU. “I believe it connects us more than we realize,” she said.
Bob Whitmore, an early faculty adviser for the student newspaper and a former University employee in Creative Services (now known as Marketing Communications), envisioned that ability to connect students and proposed a newspaper to Dr. Bob Jones III, the president of BJU at the time.
Originally, the administration had some concerns about the paper’s staff having an adversarial relationship with the University, but Whitmore was able to reassure Jones.
“If done right, I saw the potential benefit of [The Collegian] being a cohesive, morale-boosting campus-wide informational piece, while giving students hands-on journalistic experience providing the opportunity to build their resumes,” Jones said.
Jones believes that the writing staff has improved since the paper’s founding. “Annually, The Collegian and its writers win top honors in competitions where it is entered,” he said. “I’m very proud each year when in chapel their successes are heralded.”
As a member of the South Carolina Press Association’s Collegiate Division, BJU’s student newspaper has won many awards over the years. Most recently, The Collegian placed second in the general excellence category; earned the first, second and third place awards for cartoon or illustration and took first place in reporting on arts and entertainment in the 2020 awards.
The Collegian has changed significantly over the past decades, growing from a small biweekly paper produced by 15 students and three faculty advisers to today’s award-winning weekly publication created by 22 students and three faculty advisers.
The paper switched to a weekly publication schedule in 2005’s Volume 19 under the leadership of editor in chief Ryan Fisher and copy editor Jeremy Patterson.
As part of a project for the Public Relations Writing course offered by the University, Fisher and Patterson proposed releasing an issue of the paper every week and conducted a survey to determine student interest. “The research was overwhelmingly in favor of having a weekly newspaper,” Fisher said.
The process used to produce the paper has also changed since its founding. Originally, the paper was produced using Ready, Set, Go!, a publishing software for early Macintosh models.
After being designed, the various parts of the paper were printed off and pasted onto boards in the desired layout before being taken to the print shop on campus. Now, The Collegian staff uses Adobe InDesign to create each issue, and the files are sent to the BJU Press for printing.
Recent staff members have shifted the focus of articles in the paper. “We do more stories about what is going on around Greenville, helping to introduce the student body to the area of Greenville [and] what’s available to them,” Solomon said.
Dave McQuaid, who was the features editor for The Collegian in 1988 before becoming a faculty adviser until 2003, says the newspaper prints more feature articles now because of how the rapid spread of information via the internet has changed journalism.
McQuaid believes the time spent on staff is valuable for students. “All the stuff you learned in journalism class came to life because you actually had to be prepared to go interview somebody who was more important than you were and things like that,” he said.
Although most of the modern elements of the paper were in place when it was founded, a few have been added over the years, including comic strips. In 1990, Chad Frye introduced the first cartoon to The Collegian.
“I always went to the comics section first, and this newspaper didn’t have one,” he said. “Nothing was poking fun at campus life.” Frye also worked on the production crew laying out the paper.
In the past, advertisements, the paper’s main source of revenue, took up a lot of space in The Collegian, but now the administration pays for printing costs directly.
The paper’s staff originally released issues on Thursdays. In 2007, however, The Collegian switched its publication day to Fridays, starting with Volume 21. With this year’s Volume 35, Monday became the new release day.
Despite these and many other changes, the paper still provides the same practical experience for students as when it was founded. “We want the student staff to be the leaders, to take responsibility, to do the hard work, … and those are skills you will use in the workplace,” Solomon said.