Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

The history of The Miami Student: An almost 200-year-old tradition of journalism

<p>The Miami Student has changed a lot over its nearly two-century history. What hasn&#x27;t changed is the staffers&#x27; passion and commitment to local news.</p>

The Miami Student has changed a lot over its nearly two-century history. What hasn't changed is the staffers' passion and commitment to local news.

Since 1826, The Miami Student has been serving as one of the oldest student-run college newspapers in the nation. 

The motto of the paper “Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies” refers to its location west of the Allegheny Mountains, a part of the Appalachian Mountains going from central Pennsylvania to southwest Virginia. 

In 1826, two years after Miami University had welcomed its first class (despite having been chartered in 1809),  William Holmes McGuffey, author of the Eclectic Readers series and namesake to McGuffey Hall, first began teaching at Miami. 

In May of the same year, a group of students decided to publish the first edition of Miami’s first student-run publication The Literary Focus. The publication discussed current news and literature through essays, along with poetry. The intent behind publishing was to make news, science and literature available to all classes of people in the area.

The Literary Focus had a rebrand in 1867 and became The Miami Student. On May 8, the first issue was sold for 10 cents. J.Z. Moore, John Wyman, R.O. Strong and G.S. Bishop edited the paper that covered local news such as Dr. Stoddard’s chemistry lectures in the Oxford Female College, essays on world topics and alumni affairs, debates on what the official school colors should be and even baseball scores.  

While The Student has operated for almost 200 years, it’s undergone a lot more than a simple name change. 

In 1896, a printed picture was first put onto the front page of the publication to accompany a poem entitled “Down the Walk.” Today, The Student boasts a whole photography section, team and editors.

Although the publication started reporting news involving literature and other colleges, with the emergence of Greek life at Miami, women first being admitted in 1887 and the growth of the town of Oxford, The Student began to focus more on the local community and news concerning Miami exclusively.

Featured sections included politics, notes on the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A., art and fraternities. The current newspaper offers Campus & Community, Sports, Opinion, Food, Humor, Style, Entertainment and more in print and online. Just this year, The Student expanded its coverage of sustainability and the environment by merging with GreenHawks media.

These changes show the progress of time that The Student has been able to follow in its length of time covering the community. 

Former Editor-in-Chief and writer Sue MacDonald said the paper looks and runs very differently from when she wrote for the paper in the 1970s.

“We printed every Tuesday and Friday,” MacDonald said. “It was a lot of work. Four nights a week we would be putting three to five hours into just trying to get the issues printed and laid out at the Oxford Press or in the office.”

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Now, The Student prints every other Friday and releases articles online daily, something brought on by a generation who is more likely to check the news online. In January 2017, the paper switched to its current structure from printing twice a week to a weekly print before briefly switching to a monthly model in 2021 and finally landing on the current bi-weekly model in 2022. 

In addition to printing, MacDonald said interviewing also looked different at the time.

“[Interviews] had to be done over the phone or in person. We didn’t have cell phones, so we just had our little telephone in the office, and it took a lot more time,” she said.

When Fred Reeder, the current adviser to The Student, was a student in the 1990s, he said everyone grabbed copies in their residence halls. Now, the best way to read The Student is online.

“I think those days have ended," Reeder said. "We wrestled with that, but we found it works better to put more online.”

One thing both MacDonald and Reeder see as The Student’s greatest strength is the ability to use its writers and editors to make the publication successful.

“We have this core of dedicated students. We don’t have a lot of journalism majors or a large program. We’re doing more with less here,” Reeder said. “We were named Ohio’s Best College Newspaper by the Society of Professional Journalists. You’re doing that with a smaller staff, and it’s honestly pretty extraordinary.”

James Tobin served as faculty adviser for the paper from 2014-2021. In his time with the publication, Tobin noted numerous changes with the paper including the printing schedule and the emergence of more investigative pieces.

Tobin said working with The Student was a memorable experience.

“They were some of the most motivated journalists. They’re not getting paid, and it’s not their job, so you knew their motivation lied entirely in producing good stories for the newspaper,” Tobin said. “They were great students who just wanted to put out good work.”

To see past issues of The Miami Student dating back to 1867, visit the Miami University Libraries’ digital collections.