The End of An Era!

Dr. Clifton W. Potter, UofL History Professor~


Last Thursday, my retirement at the end of this academic year was announced on social media, and in a heartbeat, it was all over the web. Sixty years ago, an announcement of this kind would have been appeared first in The Critograph. My career in collegiate journalism began in September 1958, but by the time I graduated in 1962, I had worked on all the Lynchburg College publications, edited The Prism, and was President of The Board of Publications.

Sixty years ago, we worked on manual typewriters—not electric. When you made a mistake, there was no “white-out” or correction tape, and, if the error could not be erased, you had to begin again with a fresh piece of paper. The staff worked in the Publications Office in the basement of Westover Hall every weekday night, but Monday’s were particularly frantic because that was when the latest edition of the newspaper was “put to bed.” We published The Critograph every other week, while The Prism appeared three times a year. The editor assigned stories to the members of the staff for each issue.

The photographers were constantly consuming film and flashbulbs hoping to find the perfect accompaniment to the lead stories. In addition, they took the candid shots for The Argonaut. Their darkroom was also located in the basement of Westover—and it was always locked.

When all the stories were finished, and the photographs were developed the paper was “pasted up” either with glue or cellophane tape. Each page was done separately by those members of the staff whose expertise was layout. I wrote fillers. When the layout was finished, there was often “white space” on one or more pages. The editor would then ask for a story of a certain number of words. They could be on any subject and were often based on stories in other papers or magazines—but they might also advertise a forthcoming campus event. We had our own talented artists who produced a new cartoon for most issues. Fillers were produced on the spot.

On Tuesday morning, the editor delivered the paper to a printer off-campus who would then publish the latest edition of The Critograph. On several occasions, I had the opportunity to watch the steps that transformed our efforts into a newspaper. The typesetters worked with a speed that was impressive using techniques that were familia to Benjamin Franklin when he made a fortune in the printing trade. The finished paper was collected on Thursday and distributed that evening. The staff was already working on the next issue while students were standing in the dinner line reading the latest Crit.

The Prism was produced in much the same way, although we had a greater cushion of time. We used the same publisher as The Critograph, and many of the same staff members. One of the most important individuals in our publication “fraternity” was the advertising editor. They had the often-difficult task of selling ads to local businesses. None of us received a “salary” for our work. We loved what we were doing,and the experience was invaluable. I feel that same excitement working with The Critograph staff this year, and I still love to see my name in print!

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