From Past to Future: A Look Back at how the Yellow Jacket has changed from its early days to COVID-19 days

When looking at The Yellow Jacket of today printing in color and releasing almost daily articles on our website, it is almost impossible to imagine a time when it was any different. However, 100 years ago, the paper was under a different name, it was run differently, and there was no website to check for new articles. 

     The history of the newspaper runs long and stretches over major changes in the history of the University. As a video documentary about the publication titled, “Clotho’s Loom: 100 Years of The Yellow Jacket” puts it, “The road to get here wasn’t easy, but it was rewarding.” Even amidst its start, its revival, its struggle against COVID-19 and its revision period to now, the paper hasstuck around for decades, and continues to be a source of content for Waynesburg University and beyond..

         The video gave the details of the newspaper’s beginning when it was created in 1900 when notable alumnus Edward Martin saw the need for student journalism on campus, as the original publication looked different than the one currently being put out today. The publication was printed in black and white ink adorning the name “The Collegian.” The name remained stuck up until 1924 when then President Paul R. Stewart decided there needed to be unanimous branding throughout the campus. The newspaper was renamed, “The Yellow Jacket” and soon followed the athletic departments showing off the new “Jackets” name that remains on the campus to this day.

         According to the video documentary, the early stages of the paper saw it as a staple of campus life. In a time with no social media, the paper was how students and faculty alike would hear about all the things going on. It covered what the community wanted to see and gave everyone, not just students, a place to express the things they had on their minds. The paper was also notable for its coverage of campus athletics, giving all the updates for every game and the team standings. It was a major lifeline for the campus, as Waynesburg University alumnus Tim Durkin wrote via email, “To give you an idea, in 1930, the paper went from monthly to biweekly because of how badly the community wanted to read it.” Durkin, who spent his final semester as a student at Waynesburg researching and composing the documentary, has become very familiar with the history of the publication and stated via email on how much it has changed over its long history.

         As the documentary makes note of later on, as  the campus community changed over time, so did the publication. The video notes on how what was once the main source of information for the campus was now being lost to the chaos of the internet. Slowly, it became clear that there needed to be a change as to how the newspaper was being published. The change to the online publication that is now known today, started off slowly. With students still putting out a physical print every week, the website was not a priority. That was until COVID-19 came and changed everything for the publication.

         Durkin explains, “After 2020, digital became the primary focus of the paper, with the print side being relegated to a couple of editions per semester. It was easily the biggest challenge the Jacket ever faced.” According to the documentary, COVID-19 rushed a process that was already in motion however what the virus made extremely difficult was not so much publishing the articles, but more so writing them in the first place. No longer were in-person interviews a thing, students now had to rely on emails and phone calls in the hopes their sources wouldn’t miss it. Sometimes, even when an email wasn’t lost, these sources would just outright ignore the students. This was a clear sign of just how much the times have changed. 

The Jacket was once one of the most influential forces on the campus publishing every single week, and now they were fighting to keep from dropping stories.

         Despite all of this, the virus was not the end of the publication. Although the switch to online was unexpected, it was going to be a move that would have had to have been made in the future. 

     Chairman of Waynesburg University’s Department of Communication Richard Krause explained that changes have been looming since 2018, and journalism was in a decline even before the virus hit. 

     As the documentary states, with the rise of social media, print is continuing to die out, and newspapers all over the world have changed to this online model. With the push from COVID-19, The Jacket has fully caught up and is inversed in this digital era. 

     Both Krause and Durkin agreed that despite everything, there was one major advantage to this digital era: timeliness. No longer did the community have to wait for the print release to read about an event that had already occurred three days before; now articles could be released as they were written and were still relevant.

         Even with there being so much change occurring with the publication as of late, Krause explained that there is still more to come, as there  are now plans in the works for new digital platforms such as an app or a content management system that will bring the newspaper directly to the attention of the students. The publication is looking to get to the students and as Krause said, “We have got to get to the phones because that is where you are.” 

     For more information on The Yellow Jacket, content is published regularly on The Yellow website, as well as each semester producing two print editions regularly.