Edition of the Gunston Ledger

Early edition of Broadside

  The Mason Spirit

Extra! Extra!

Since the early days of George Mason College, the school newspaper has brought together a wide range of students

By Greg Guenthner

At first glance, the staff box of volume one of the Gunston Ledger looks more like the roster of a small club. Editor, assistant editor, treasurer, art, sports, photographer, and a few reporters are the only staff members listed in George Mason College's first student newspaper. It was a fledgling monthly publication, but even in October 1963, the students who worked on that newspaper realized that George Mason College had the potential to become a major university.

Helen Momsen, B.A. '87, editor and founder of the Gunston Ledger, expressed her thoughts about George Mason's potential in her editorial about adopting a school seal. "In fifty years, your heads, bowed with age, will raise with pride when a current of curiosity ripples through the students of well-known George Mason College, 'I wonder who started this tradition? Someone had to!'" Momsen wrote. "That someone will be you."

As George Mason matured, so did the student paper. The late 1960s brought in an entirely new publication with a new purpose. On October 28, 1969, the staff of the Gunston Ledger officially changed the paper's name to Broadside. "The George Mason College newspaper staff has decided that the title of our publication no longer represents the things which we want it to stand for," they explained on the cover of the tabloid. Broadside was named after the sheets of paper posted in town squares before the American Revolution to help spread news faster than could the weekly papers.

Bob Herrmann, B.S. '72, was art director from 1969 to 1971. He believes that the Broadside was a reflection of the times. "The Vietnam war was very pervasive," says Herrmann. "It was as intense as post 9/11 year after year."

Most of the early editions of Broadside dealt with political issues because there wasn't a very cohesive student body or many campus activities. According to Herrmann, the student newspaper office was located in the basement of South Building (now Krug Hall). The staff had one typewriter and no telephone, and they used a mimeograph machine in a staff member's basement to print the paper. Herrmann is surprised that the name change stuck. He is also surprised at what George Mason - and Broadside - have grown into. "Anyone going to Mason now is so fortunate," he said.

Broadside now circulates 4,000 copies per issue twice a week during the academic year, and its readership includes students, faculty, staff, and people in the Fairfax community. According to Broadside faculty advisor Kathryn Mangus, more than 50 students participate in the Broadside's publication each semester, and an additional 40 participate through communication newspaper workshops.

"On a regular basis, the students involved represent a larger cross-section of majors, including communication, English, history, graphic design, psychology, computer science, and government, to name just a few," says Mangus.

Despite the variety of backgrounds and majors, former staffers have proven to be a tight-knit group. The Broadside Alumni Chapter boasts more than 300 members, and in October 2001, more than 40 people attended an open house to show off the newspaper's new offices in Student Union I.

While Jeanie (Geib) Ingram, B.A. '89, no longer has to work until 1 a.m. on Friday nights with border tape in her hair, she is glad she worked on the Broadside when she did. Presiding as managing editor from 1988 to 1989 and holding other staff positions during the late 1980s, Ingram says she wouldn't have missed her Broadside experience for anything. "It greatly enhanced my college experience," she says. "In fact, the benefits extended far beyond college. When I graduated, I had something to put on my resume. I was able to quickly find a position right out of college, and I am doing exactly what I set out to do." And newspapers are still a big part of her life - she works for the Newspaper Association of America.

The paper's revenue has increased over the past five years to almost $200,000, according to Mangus. Less than 10 percent of its operating budget comes from George Mason; the rest is generated through advertising.

Still a reflection of the times, the Broadside can be found on the Internet at www.BroadsideOnline.com. The site is updated twice weekly and features stories from the printed edition as well as extras, weather, electronic polls, and links to various sites in the Mason community.

Recently, the Princeton Review ranked the Broadside ninth in the Great College Newspapers category. This honor places the paper alongside student newspapers produced at schools with prestigious journalism programs, such as the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Indiana University.

In fall 2000, Broadside underwent a facelift. Jimmie Foster, B.A. '01, then editor-in-chief, changed the paper from tabloid size back to a broadsheet, which it had been in the early 1980s, and began using a green and gold masthead. Foster believes that having a student newspaper with a professional appearance is important.

"Broadside is one of the true traditions of this university," says Foster. "Whether you attended Mason in 1969 or 1999, just about everyone remembers Broadside, and that is something hard to find at a school that is so young and has changed so much in a short time."