By Steph Haeg
“The first number of the RECORD is before you.
From its contents you may be able to divine the object of its publication.
“Briefly, the object is: To establish a medium of intercommunication between the University and its former students;
“Between the old students and their fellow students;
Between the University and parents or guardians of students;
“Between the University and its friends generally.
Secondly, to discuss such topics as will be of general interest to a circle of readers interested in educational matters.
“The RECORD makes no apology for its existence. It may, and may not, fill a long-felt want. We feel as though it ought to receive a cordial welcome from our friends. If it does, it has a raison d’etre. If it does not, it will go to the wall after the first year of its existence.
“At all events, it will stand or fall on its own merits.
“The many kind and encouraging assurances already received, give its editorial staff reason to look to its future hopefully.
“There is no reason for taking a gloomy look. The field of its usefulness is broad enough, and if our friends stand by us, the RECORD’s future is assured.”
The Record’s opening column is one that resonates greatly with me today, reflecting on this history of this newspaper. This issue is dated January 1888; it started as a monthly publication before becoming a weekly one in 1925. The original issue was structured not in the traditional layout that we might recognize, but instead in three columns, any columns as necessary before ending, and then a new story would begin. It contained articles that might puzzle a modern reader of The Record; there is a brief biography of Leif Erickson, a discussion about the Pope and his accomplishments, a brief examination of world happenings and a listing of the current employments of past students.
It would be impossible to do a full examination of The Record’s 130 years in the space of this column, but I shall strive to at least cover the basics.
The name of the newspaper, as explained in its launching issue, is due to the founders’ dedication to recording the history of the institution of SJU, drawing comparisons between their endeavors and those of Abbey Chroniclers from the Middle Ages.
CSB was not founded when The Record (then entitled The St. John’s University Record) began, but St. Benedict’s Academy, a “finishing school” for girls gets a mention, deep within the first twelve pages of the newspaper. The paper declares it “A pleasant Christian home for young ladies.”
CSB did not have their own student newspaper for some time, until 1965, and the tenure of these newspapers was often rocky, in contrast to The Record’s steady presence on campus. Their first newspaper was called The Torch, and lasted until 1973. Its successor, Vitae, ran from 1973-1976, followed by The Cable (1976-1987), Independent (1987-1998) and finally The Saints (1998-1999). In the year 2000, The Record became the newspaper of both campuses.
But the relationship between CSB and The Record is a bit more complicated than it might seem. In 1968, The Record teamed up with The Torch, advocating for the union of the two colleges. And to show their support for the merging of campuses, they ran a joint issue. This action was highly criticized by many members of the community (CSB and SJU would reject a full merger in 1969, instead opting for the coordinated relationship that exists today), but the issue represented in many ways the future of both the campuses, and the newspaper itself.
A campus newspaper can and should be many things. As an historian, going through old issues of The Record has shown the evolving values of campus. It’s an invaluable resource, providing a glimpse into the lives that people were living, what people were talking about, and what we consider to be important. The Record has lasted an incredible 130 years, and is still going strong, and that is certainly something to be proud of.
As the editorial board of the 1888 St. John’s University Record noted, if our friends stand by us, The Record’s future looks to be in pretty good hands.