A Brief Look at Past Eras of The Grizzly

Sean McGinley semcginley@ursinus.edu & Liam Reilly lireilly2@ursinus.edu

With the 1,000th issue of The Grizzly upon us, it felt appropriate to look at some of the past editions of the paper to offer a sort of “History of The Grizzly.” So, we took it upon ourselves to scour the Digital Commons at Ursinus to see some of the major changes that the paper has undergone over the years, focusing particularly on the late 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

The Grizzly formally began on September 29, 1978 after changing its name from The Ursinus Weekly around this same time. The paper must have been facing some struggles at this point, as Director of the Myrin Library H.E. Broadbent reported in an October 6, 1978 edition that “resources for campus communication are meager.” He goes on to say how The Grizzly “has a difficult task ahead” due to its irregular publishing schedule, a problem that influenced the name change. Throughout this same year, though, the paper seemed to find its footing, particularly after the paper started working with the Collegeville-based paper, The Independent, for distribution purposes on October 20th, 1978. Going back and reading this statement is interesting, as the staff at the time points out how “The Independent has been critical of the college…[and]… has no interest in the content or editorial opinion of The Grizzly.” Regardless, the staff promised “bolder headlines, more pictures, and better graphic illustration” going forward and, we have to say, they managed to deliver. Future editions were full of pictures and colorful illustrations, along with ads for a multitude of places, including Marzella’s and the Collegeville Italian Bakery. Writers at this time were also much more bold than what we’re used to seeing today, as articles detailing parties were much more frequent. For example, writer Jennifer Bassett reported how “Fifteen kegs of Pabst Blue Ribbon” were flowing in an article about an Inter-Fraternity picnic. Still, some of the paper did have stories that resembled something you might see today. Mark Angelo wrote an article with an all-too-familiar sounding headline, “Parking Problem at Ursinus,” in a December, 1978 edition.

Something fun we found from the 1980s was the fact that, according to then Editor-in-Chief Joseph F. Pirro, they started to distribute the paper directly into resident mailboxes. The late ‘80s in particular saw some major changes for the paper. As the editorial staff points out in a 1986 edition, they started “producing The Grizzly completely on the Ursinuscampus.” Essentially, they started taking things on themselves, from type-setting to distribution. Furthermore, there was an increased promotion of different opinions and discourses such as “Grim’s Law,” a section in which Katherine Grim would explore whatever annoyed her the most that week, along with the ability to have “Letters to the Editor” included with respons- es. Additionally, advertisements for businesses such as the video rental store and pizza stop highlighted the entertainment at the time for the students.

Throughout the 1990s, the paper seemed much more willing to delve into topics outside the Ursinus community. We saw several articles about the Iraq War and other foreign affairs and political issues. There was also a fun “Arts and Entertainment” section that provided frequent movie reviews along with Oscar picks. A fun section called “Soap Box” written by Ellen Shatz provided recaps of popular soap operas like Days of Our Lives, while a variety of writers contributed to the “Science News” section of the paper. Still, The Grizzly at this time did provide a multitude of sections specific to the college. For example, a section entitled “The Bear Facts,” which started in the late 1980s, still regularly updated readers throughout this period. In a February 9th, 1990 edition, the section described itself as “an ongoing report of events in which the Ursinus Security Department and its officers become involved on campus and within the Residential Village.” Further, the staff at this time would post the WVOU schedule and continue the trend of having a “Letters to the Editor” section as past eras did. The Goofly, a semi-frequent parody version of the paper, was still going strong during this period, as well. Our favorite article from this period, though, has to be by Anne-Marie McMahon, who, through some digging, reported that J.D. Salinger was indeed a Grizzly staff writer (or, at the very least, an Ursinus Weekly staff writer).

Overall, reading throughout past eras from The Grizzly’s history was a fun exercise. Doing so gave us a good idea of where news at Ursinus initi- ated and how it managed to develop throughout the different decades. While not everything was totally newsworthy, the paper still provided students with a sense of individual agency for decades to come, continuing to this day.