On Nov. 7, 1894, Alabama Polytechnic Institute’s two literary societies, the Websterians and the Wirts, joined together to publish the first edition of The Orange and Blue.
“With this issue of The Orange and Blue, we launch forth on the uncertain, and often perilous sea of college journalism,” wrote the paper’s first editor-in-chief Jas. A. Duncan. “Let us all pull together with a will and with a heart, and perhaps the day may not be far distant when a greater success than is hoped for in the wildest flights of our imagination shall crown our efforts put forth in this day.”
Originally, the paper was only published twice a month and only had four pages, but the editors set out with a bold vision of what it could be. They envisioned a publication that informed the student body and gave students a place to discuss their ideas and criticize their leaders.
The original editors opined about how they hoped that one day they would be able to publish on a weekly basis.
“A weekly is best of all, but circumstances are not such, we are sory [sic] to say, as to permit us to attempt anything so ‘big,’ as yet,” Duncan wrote. “Would that we could issue a weekly!”
But in the ensuing 127 years, the paper and its editors eventually reached that lofty goal. Naturally, that same span of time was also fraught with changes both undertaken by and thrust upon the paper.
In 1922, the paper changed its name to The Plainsman. In the 1950s and 2000s the organization moved offices, and in all of the years in between we have had a revolving door of editors, writers, photographers and designers, all of whom have shepherded this organization through the trials and stresses of college journalism.
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But throughout these changes, the overall goal of this organization has remained steadfast. Every day we do our best to inform the Auburn community about what’s happening around them, to hold local and University officials accountable and to provide a space for students, faculty, staff and community members to voice their concerns and express their opinions.
In 127 years, we have printed everything from columns arguing against segregation to pictures of vigils held after 9/11. We have interviewed mayors and senators, freshmen and seniors.
And this past year — like plenty which have come before it — has been one of change.
The COVID-19 pandemic, along with its subsequent economic crisis, has put an immense amount of stress on, among many things, local news organizations. We have not been immune.
The lack of foot traffic, the overall cost of printing and the general trend of the journalism industry have consistently challenged us to justify our weekly schedule.
Now, we have reached a breaking point.
So, in following with this organization’s history of change, The Plainsman is announcing that this week’s paper will be our final weekly edition. Going forward, the vast majority of our time and effort will be focused on producing content for our website, our podcasts, our videos, our newsletter and our social media accounts.
For years we have resisted this change in order to retain a sense of tradition or comfort. For years we have held out the hope that print media would have its renaissance like vinyl records, scrunchies or the presidency of Jay Gogue. But that day has not come.
It’s important to note here that even though this change is taking place during the pandemic, it has not been caused solely by the pandemic.
The Plainsman is a professional news organization, and we recognize that the majority of our readers already access us through our digital formats. Ironically, for most of you reading this, there won’t be a huge amount of change.
The Plainsman is also a learning lab, and we recognize that when most — if not all — of our staff members graduate, they will be looking for jobs outside of the traditional realm of print media. By focusing on interactive and digital elements, we intend to give them opportunities to develop the journalistic skills that will benefit them after they’ve walked across the stage.
Lastly, The Plainsman has always been more than a semi-monthly or weekly print product. We have always been worth more than the paper we have been printed on.
The Plainsman is the stories that we uncover and tell; we’re the breaking news, the in-depth features and the sports coverage that you love. That part isn’t changing because that part will never change. No matter the format or the time period, we will always be a place for news, discussion, learning and growth.
To keep up with all of this, we highly encourage you to regularly visit our website, sign up for our newsletter, subscribe to our podcasts and follow us on social media.
As we make this change, we would first like to thank all of the former Plainsman staff members who dedicated large swaths of their college experiences and built this organization into what it is today.
We would also like to thank all of our current staff members who have continued to put out critical and entertaining work despite a virus, pay cuts, uncertainty and change.
Finally, we would like to thank you, our reader, for supporting, critiquing and believing in us.
For 127 years, this organization has maintained a spirit that is not afraid.
We aren’t afraid to hold administrators or mayors to account. We aren’t afraid to share diverse opinions from diverse individuals, and we aren’t afraid to tell the truth.
This year, probably more than any other, we have had a spirit that is unafraid of change.
When that first group of editors in 1894 published The Orange and Blue, they were stepping into a new journalistic era. That first editorial spoke of doubt and concern, but it also ended with hopeful salutation.
“Godspeed and prosper ‘The Orange and Blue,’” they wrote.
Now, we find ourselves at the cusp of another new era. And while the times may be different, the sentiment shouldn’t be.
We are once again embarking onto the perilous sea of college journalism.
So, godspeed and prosper, The Auburn Plainsman.
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