Pressing matters: A look back at 18
of the Chronicle
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 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.
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 ...
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
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
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’
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.