By Katie Cline
Students and faculty gathered in Self Hall on April 6 to celebrate 80 years of student newspapers at JSU.
First published in 1934, The Teacola was the first campus newspaper when JSU was known as the Jacksonville State Teachers College - thus the title “Teacola,” a combination of the words “teachers” and “college.” In 1954, the paper’s name changed to The Collegian. A final name change came in 1967 - just one year after the institution was elevated to the status of a university - the newspaper adopted the title of The Chanticleer. “Chanticleer,” which by definition refers to “a name given to a rooster, especially in fairy tales,” is quite a fitting name for a newspaper whose university mascot is the Gamecock.
Marie McBurnett, the current editor-in-chief of The Chanticleer, praised the newspaper as a source of real-world experience for students.
“The paper’s really awesome because it gives you a chance to work in the field,” said McBurnett, “and it also gives you an idea of what you want to do, whether you want to be a writer or if you want to be an editor or if you want to be the one who lays out the page.”
Chanticleer alumni were invited to the night’s event to reflect on their own time here at JSU working with The Chanticleer. Among those in attendance was Ben Cunningham, the current Managing Editor for The Anniston Star. Cunningham first came to JSU in 1994 where he wrote for The Chanticleer, but took four years off from school from 1997 to 2001 to serve in the United States Air Force. Cunningham returned in 2001 and served as the editor-in-chief of The Chanticleer from 2001 to 2003. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2003.
“It’s a pleasure to get to do what I do here every day for a living,” Cunningham said. “You don’t know what you’re going to do that’s going to catch fire and grab people’s interest, so I go into work every day just wondering, ‘What are we going to do today that’s going to make people go, ‘wow’?’”
And celebrating the paper’s first 80 years has its editors looking forward to 80 more.
“I want to see The Chanticleer updating daily,” said Alex McFry, the current associate editor. “I want to see The Chanticleer on all social media platforms, and I want to see The Chanticleer utilizing the digital video and PR—the other two communication concentrations—to the best of their ability.”
Marvel Robinson, the sports editor, added, “I want everybody on our campus to know about their campus newspaper, The Chanticleer.”
“Now that we’re getting into online and updating our online presence on several different social media platforms,” said Christiana Tyler, the paper’s arts and entertainment editor, “I think [The Chanticleer is] going in a direction that we need to go in and that the world in general is going.”
“In 20 years, I want them to organize the 100th anniversary reunion,” McFry said, “and I want this room to not be big enough. I want them to be standing in the hallway waiting to get in.”
“In 80 years there better be videos in the paper, like a Harry Potter thing,” mused McBurnett.
Cunningham believes in the continued existence of journalism for one main reason: the people want to know.
“People need to know what’s going on,” Cunningham said. “People have a great desire to know what’s going on - on their block, in their town, in their region, in their state, in their nation and in their world. Our founders set up from the very beginning a system that would give all of us - any of us - not just the journalists, the right to say anything that we could find out. Anything that we thought everyone should know, we had the freedom to say. And they saw that as very important. The press is named in the First Amendment right up there with religion. So we’re seen as very basic to the way that American Democracy is supposed to work.”
The Chanticleer continues to be what students across campus look to for all things news - whether it be on campus or around the world.
(This article was originally printed in the April 9 edition of The Chanticleer. Pick up a paper copy weekly on campus or read online at www.jsu.edu/chanticleer. )