The importance of 151 years of student journalism


Dunn Library archives

The 1898 staff of The Simpsonian posed for the yearbook photo. Top row (left to right): Josie McCleary; H.L. Youtz; F.R. Sebolt, associate editor; S.M. Holiday, business manager. Middle row: Sadie Shepherd; Jennie Riggs, associate editor; Frank Henderson, editor; Roxanna Stewart, reporter; Lois Todd. Bottom row: James O’May, associate editor; B.W. McEldowney, Y.M.C.A.; J. Well Hancox, athletic editor.

by Paul Hyatt, Feature Editor

In “Beneath the Whispering Maples; the History of Simpson College,” The Simpsonian is mentioned 846 times.  

Considering that The Simpsonian has been published continuously since 1870, 151 years ago, this number may not be as astonishing as initially thought. However, it does show how important the publication is in recording Simpson’s history.  

Cyd Dyer, Simpson librarian and archivist, regularly uses old Simpsonian articles to piece together moments in history from Simpson’s perspective, resource archival questions and fulfill alum and family requests for documents and historical information.  

“The Simpsonian is so important because it will be the premier document that will be used for the next college history,” Dyer said. “The Simpsonian, and any college newspaper, is the key resource for finding out, not just what happened that week, but what happened last year or last decade and how that all weaves together.” 

The first edition of The Simpsonian was published Oct. 1st 1870. (Simpsonian File Photo)

While having access to this archived information is likely not in the forefront of every college student’s mind, it is very useful for individuals seeking moments in history that otherwise would be lost to time.  

“I get inquiries from students and parents — the most recent being, ‘my daughter played soccer here many, many years ago, and I seem to have all of the newspaper articles about her except for one, can you track this one down for me?’” Dyer said. “We found that one, and actually had an extra copy for her to have. She was so thrilled about it.”  

In addition to individual inquiries, looking through archived Simpsonian articles will also show Simpson College’s relation to major historical events such as World War 1, World War 2, the Vietnam War and many others. This provides unique primary and secondary sources for historians.  

Brian Steffen, chair of the multimedia communication department and previous advisor for The Simpsonian, has observed the impact that The Simpsonian has — not just as a memento for historical events — but as current and relative information for students.  

“I think that it is an independent, credible source of information for the campus,” Steffen said. “There is a lot of things that students would not know about this campus if it were not for The Simpsonian.” 

Breaking news on campus has always been covered by The Simpsonian in a timely manner, providing current students and alums with relevant information about their college. Many of this news would otherwise go unreported, as larger news sources often do not have the time to report on news that only affects the campus population.  

The Simpsonian has also provided an impactful learning experience for aspiring journalist and media professionals for 151 years. 

That’s the key thing about journalism; journalists don’t do it for their sake, they do it for our sake.

— Brian Steffen, multimedia communication department chair

“We have a long tradition of students who want to learn and practice free and responsible journalism,” Steffen said. “That’s the key thing about journalism; journalists don’t do it for their sake, they do it for our sake. I trust and hope that they learn a lot about what makes a community, and what makes a community is journalism in a lot of ways. You cannot have a functioning community without a free and independent source of information.” 

The Simpsonian is continually evolving to better provide the information that Simpson students’ need, and has no plans to slow down after 151 years.