Why UMass should encourage more student-run publications

Tucked away in the Special Collections and University Archives section on the 25th floor of the W.E.B DuBois Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, you’ll find perfectly preserved copies of The Drum a magazine dedicated to the “Black Literary Experience” produced and edited by UMass Amherst students from 1969 to 1988.

I remember being struck by The Drum when I visited the Special Collections section for a class project. The pages were filled with impressive writing and poetry, moving art and unique photography— all produced by former students.

(UMass Drum archives)
(UMass Drum archives)

The Drum was an outlet for student journalists. It covered a range of topics from supporting the Black Power Movement, to protests of the Vietnam War to the women’s liberation struggle.

I started to wonder about the history of student-made publications that have floated around UMass Amherst.

After doing some research on the Special Collections and University Archives website produced by UMass Libraries, I was surprised to learn that the university has been producing student made publications since 1869. Considering that the first crop of students came to UMass in 1867, I was impressed.

(UMass Drum archives)
(UMass Drum archives)

Over the years there have been many different types of student-run publications.

There have been humor magazines, like The Squib which ran from 1915 to 1924. Later, Yahoo published from 1954 to 1973, which according to the Special Collections and Archives website, aimed to “satirize college life in general and to expose the humorous institutions of the University in particular.”

There was the literary magazine Caesura, where students and faculty shared their poetry, short stories and art. There was even a magazine published as early as 1890 by the Agricultural College, called Aggie Life.

Publications produced by students carry more weight than we might realize.

After looking through the online archives of the magazines and publications that past UMass students have produced and enjoyed, I realized that the need for students to honestly express themselves is as old as the university itself.

What better way to learn about the student population than to let them tell you through their art and self-expression?

It’s important for young people to express their thoughts on important global events including war and politics — while they’re also free to express themselves through art and music.

(UMass Drum archives)
(UMass Drum archives)

Student-controlled magazines and newspapers offer a unique glimpse into daily life as well as serving as a creative outlet for young people who are finding and defining themselves.

Many UMass students may not realize how much of a blessing it is to have a resource like the Special Collections and University Archives. It blows my mind that 50 years from now, students will have digital access to the collective work that we are creating right now.

Working for student-run publications are beneficial for budding journalists who want to further hone their craft, but it’s not only about journalism — everyone has a story to tell or a picture to share.

Some of the most insightful pieces of journalism I have ever read have been produced by my peers and other college students who are taking advantage of the opportunity that they have at their school’s media outlets.

It’s interesting to see how magazines and newspapers produced by students will adapt to our constantly changing media landscape. We are living in an incredibly unique era in terms of our media production and consumption, and at times the constant flow of information can be overwhelming.

Student-run magazines and newspapers are forced to find new and creative ways to hook their audience, especially when that audience is their fellow students.

(UMass Drum archives)
(UMass Drum archives)

In my opinion, the publication that I write for, the university’s digital-first, student-run magazine, Amherst Wirehas extra appeal to today’s students by producing media on and for a digital platform. It has the capacity to reach an audience beyond campus — a national and even international audience.

From the Drum of 1969 to the Wire of 2016, it’s clear to me that students want to hear what their peers have to say.

College campuses are a place of creativity and self-expression. I think it’s time we start taking advantage of that again.

Email Justine at [email protected]

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