The Campus Chronicle
Vol. XVIII, Issue 37
for the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts
June 27, 2003

 Page One Grain & Chaff Obituaries Letters to the Chronicle Archives Feedback Weekly Bulletin

 Page One Grain & Chaff Obituaries Letters to the Chronicle Archives Feedback Weekly Bulletin




Pressing matters: A look back at 18 years
of the Chronicle

by Daniel J. Fitzgibbons, Chronicle staff

  Photographer Stan Sherer joined the Chronicle staff about a month after the paper was up and running. His first photo, a shot of Fine Arts Center technical director Fritz Far-rington rigging lights over the Concert Hall stage, appeared in the Oct. 18, 1985 issue. Since then Sherer has taken thousands of images across campus.

Photographer Stan Sherer joined the Chronicle staff about a month after the paper was up and running. His first photo, a shot of Fine Arts Center technical director Fritz Farrington rigging lights over the Concert Hall stage, appeared in the Oct. 18, 1985 issue. Since then Sherer has taken thousands of images across campus.

In the beginning

     In the summer of 1985, preparations were underway for the debut of a new campus newspaper for UMass Amherst faculty and staff. Founding editor Michael E.C. Gery, assistant editor Bill Parent, office manager Laura Kehoe — all alumni — worked with staff from Photo Services and the Publications Office to design the new tabloid, which replaced the 72-year-old Weekly Bulletin, an 8½ by 11-inch compendium of notices and official announcements.

     The fledgling publication was a team effort — start-up expenses came from a pan-campus publications fund, while several staff from other offices expanded their duties to include the Chronicle. Bob Kirk of Design and Production Services conceived the original look of the paper and assisted in the final paste-up of each issue. In those predesktop publishing days, all of the copy was typeset in galleys, proofed and corrected, and pasted in by hand. Design and Production typesetters Carol Demaradzki and Lee Ann Bartow spent countless hours on the Chronicle and offered invaluable advice and suggestions. One of the most challenging tasks that faced Gery and Parent was developing a campuswide delivery system. Eventually, they mapped out a large figure-eight route that covered the core of the campus. Using a van supplied by Physical Plant, the editors trained a student crew to count, label and deliver thousands of papers each week. But that’s not to say it always went smoothly. Papers often went astray and once the crew neglected to close the van’s side door and spread virtually an entire edition across the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue as they took the turn.

     On Sept. 4, 1985 the premiere issue of The Campus Chronicle was delivered to campus offices. The front page carried news of planned improvements in the Tower Library and a $5 million National Science Foundation grant to the Computer and Information Science (COINS) Department. The rest of the first edition was a cobbled together collection of short news items, a two page look back at the 1984-85 academic year and announcements. On page 2 was a message from Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Richard O’Brien, who said the Chronicle was created as part of a wide-ranging effort to transform the campus into the "best public university in the Northeast" within five years.

     “Such a view of our future will prevail only if it commands the support of the whole campus,” he wrote. “This newspaper is a crucial part of our attempt to talk with the whole community, faculty, staff and students, in order to provoke discussion and build consensus.”

    One of the stories in the first edition of the Chronicle noted that English professor James Leheny was appointed associate chancellor by Chancellor Joseph Duffey. Four chancellors later, he’s still there ...

  We don't know much about art, but we know what we like ...
  We don't know much about art, but we know what we like ...

We don't know much about art, but we know what we like ...
On Oct. 30, 1987, the Chronicle ran the photo on the left with a short announcement on upcoming exhibits at the University Gallery. Only later did we discover the picture of Scott Richter's sculpture was upside down. The weird part was that no one complained....

To the editor

     Letters to the Chronicle have always been one of the paper’s most popular features. One off-campus respondent to a 1997 readership survey said, “Letters are the most entertaining part of the paper –– the ‘PC’ version of ‘Beavis and Butthead.’”

     In the early days of the Chronicle, the policy was to summarize letters and respond to their comments. The first signed letter to run appeared in the May 30, 1986 issue. The missive from Gerry Scoppettuolo, staff assistant at the Student Center for Educational Research and Advocacy (SCERA) reflected on the professional staff’s rejection of unionization.

     In later years, letters became a staple of the Chronicle. Like all newspapers, we had our regular correspondents (you know who you are) who vented their frustrations, railed against injustices or simply tried to spark debate on some issue. Under pressure from the administration, the letters policy was amended to require the paper to solicit a response to letters that criticized individuals or policies. Though it was sometimes cumbersome, the change actually gave readers a way to get answers to their questions. Even President Michael Hooker and UMass Worcester Chancellor Aaron Lazare responded to readers’ inquiries.

     But then there are the letters readers never saw –– anonymous screeds against administrators and faculty, chain letters, appeals from all sorts of organizations with no connection to the University. One of our personal favorites was a 39-page letter from an obviously disturbed man in Atlanta who offered to share 25 percent of his $50 billion lawsuit against the federal government if we helped publicize his persecution by a range of federal agencies because of a bad used car deal with a friend of Jimmy Carter. If only we’d taken him up on it.

And speaking of Jimmy Carter

     When 150 demonstrators opposed to CIA recruitment on campus occupied Munson Hall on Nov. 24, 1986, the group led by Abbie Hoffman and Amy Carter did not seize the Chronicle office, where staff locked the door as the horde charged into the building. Fortunately, there was no paper that week because of Thanksgiving so production was unaffected. State troopers and UMass Police arrested 51 protesters and hauled them away.

Turning point

     By April 1994, Chancellor David Scott was into his second semester in office when rumors began swirling around campus that he was planning to fire Provost Glen Gordon, Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Dan Melley and Sam Conti, the vice chancellor for Research, Graduate Education and Economic Development. In an effort to find out what was going on, the Chronicle found itself in the position of informing both Gordon and Melley about their impending dismissals. A call to Scott evoked a careful response but no confirmation of the planned firings, which were announced the following day.

     The ouster of the three popular VCs ignited a firestorm of criticism from faculty, and Scott called a campuswide meeting to discuss the issue. Along with covering the heated meeting in Bowker Auditorium, the Chronicle also published comments from an interview with the chancellor immediately after the session. The resulting stories established the credibility of the Chronicle among many faculty and staff.

     Later, Scott apologized for not confirming the dismissals to the Chronicle, but admitted that the inquiry prompted him to move more quickly on the matter.

    If you’re talking credibility, we knew we were finally an accepted part of the campus when the University telephone operators started referring all those odd calls to our office. What’s Joe Duffey’s middle name? Wait, we’ll find out. When is a lecture in wood technology? Here it is. This year, the operators called us to get a copy of the campus snow closing policy.

Striking gold

     In 1999, the Chronicle was awarded the gold medal for tabloids/newspapers by Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Region I, which includes New England and eastern Canada. The award followed a bronze medal in 1998. In 2000, the category was eliminated but the Chronicle took a silver in the newsletter category.


     Did we mention that some readers were somewhat skeptical when the Chronicle first appeared? Some faculty wags in Psychology dubbed the paper “Pravda” because they thought it pushed the party line of the administration.

     Richard O’Brien certainly exerted a great measure of control over the Chronicle in his time as executive vice chancellor and provost and later as interim chancellor. His frequent use of the paper to trumpet his views earned the Chronicle the alternate moniker of “O’Brien’s Bugle.”

     Apparently, Chronicle was also a spelling challenge for many. We regularly received mail addressed to Chronic, Chronical, Cronical or the bureaucratic favorite: Campus Newspaper, our official designation for a number of years.

This photo from an alumni event was recycled for the "Virtual Commencement" April Fool's story that ran in 1998.

This photo from an alumni event was recycled for the "Virtual Commencement" April Fool's story that ran in 1998.

Foolish ways

     Our first April Fool’s story ran in the spring of 1987, starting a tradition that continued until this year. That first story related the workings of an obscure office in Physical Plant that maintained a fleet of automated animals that were put into place for budgetary reasons. The story received a few comments, so we tried again the next year.

    What we learned is that no story was too absurd for UMass: office compost piles, Whitmore being put up for sale or a missing faculty member located in Morrill Science Center after he lost his way back to his office several years earlier.

    Our 1994 story concerned endowed faculty posts, including the La-Z-Boy Chair, going unfilled because of their embarassing names. Several faculty jokingly volunteered to be the La-Z-Boy professor.

    When we announced in 1991 that departments would have to begin purchasing and affixing voice mail stamps, the TelCom office was barraged with calls asking if the stamps could be recharged. Unaware of the story, the TelCom staff was first puzzled, but then amused.

    The year before, a story on the campus’s deed being invalidated prompted a call from Boston Globe education reporter Anthony Flint, who wondered if it was true.

    Not to be outdone, Channel 40 wanted to send a camera crew to interview a pair of Big Dig workers who reportedly burrowed all the way across the state and surfaced on campus in April 2001.

  Munson Hall, home of the Chronicle since 1985.

Munson Hall, home of the Chronicle since 1985.

Big issues

     At the risk of triggering post-traumatic stress reactions across campus, we have to mention David Scott’s strategic planning odyssey.

    At the end of April 1995, Scott prepared to lay out his draft strategic plan to the campus community. Calling the Chronicle editor at home on Sunday afternoon, he inquired whether it was possible to publish the executive area unit plans and the draft report, “Towards a Commonwealth of Learning,” over the next two issues.

    On 18 hours notice, we produced a 32-page supplement that ran in the May 5 issue. The following week, we ran the 28-page report.

    Between those two issues, the Chronicle received word from its publisher, interim Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Ron Story, that the paper’s budget was being cut and the assistant editor’s post eliminated.

    Scott was astonished to learn of the proposed cut as he perused the first strategic planning edition.

    Determined not to go down without a fight, the Chronicle published its one and only editorial, “Measuring the value of a ‘community newspaper,’” calling on the campus to publicly oppose the cutback.

    True to form, faculty, staff and even Alumni Association Michael Morris raised hell about the plan to scale back the newspaper. Story backed down and the paper was preserved.

New ideas

     Michael Gery is remembered for many things at the Chronicle, but his legacy is the decision to move to desktop publishing when the technology was in its infancy. In July 1988, the Chronicle weaned itself from the typesetters and introduced an AT&T local area network that allowed pages to be composed on personal computers and printed out in two sections. That technological leap made it possible to produce more pages in less time.

     In 1997-98, Stan Sherer pioneered the use of digital photos in the Chronicle. By submitting digital images, we drastically reduced our printing expenses. Stan’s complete integration of digital photography eventually eliminated all expenses related to traditional photo processing and printing.

    Two years ago, we made the final jump and began direct electronic transmission of our pages to our printing contactor in Auburn

     In the mid-1990s, in collaboration with Web Development, we also introduced e-mail and online editions. A PDF version was added last year.

    Through it all, the Chronicle staff have been true professionals and they deserve the credit for the past 18 years.

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