’ve read just about every Heights retrospective ever written in our archives. This newspaper has never shied away from an opportunity to inform its readers on its founding, history, and constant state of change. In the 90’s, someone even wrote a Heights thesis that still sits on my desk. While most editors don’t (and shouldn’t) spend that long thinking about this organization, our predecessors have worked tirelessly to preserve our history.
The 60th, 75th, and 90th anniversary issues were masterfully put together. They included the storied founding of the organization by John D. Ring, BC ’20, and Rev. Peter V. Masterson, S.J. who served as the first “moderator” of the paper. But as excellent as these issues were, none of them were particularly future oriented. The 1945 look back iteration, for example, explained that unlike in the 30’s, The Heights reduced its circulation to a biweekly schedule because of World War II. That column ends abruptly, leaving the reader lingering on the image of a “dream of departed glory that will return again.”
Others are more lighthearted. They contain interviews with old Heights editors who recall nights that regularly stretched to 1 and 2 a.m. in McElroy 113 (our current space), O’Connell House, or 66 Commonwealth Ave. In the 70s, we were briefly without a space after being kicked off campus after a few editors allegedly bugged and published the transcript of a Board of Trustees meeting, forcing us to meet both in the corner of the UGBC office and an editor’s apartment in Cleveland Circle.
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Earlier this fall, some of those same editors were among the 125 Heights alumni gathered to celebrate the organization that defined their college experiences and beyond. Alumni who had not seen each other in decades met up with friends as if they just left a production, recounting old hijinks and stories of another BC era. Some are still in the industry at a time when the work of a journalist is more ridiculed, questioned, and ignored than it has been in recent memory. These alumni made The Heights what it is today, and as we move forward, they will be absolutely essential to our continued success.
There was never a plan for today’s Centennial Issue to be the definitive history of the organization, both because we’d need a few hundred more pages, and because it’s been done before. While you’ll find annotated clippings throughout this insert of defining moments in our history, most of the writing comes from current editors who bring some insight about recent developments in their sections, and how they expect them to change in the future.
College newspapers are slow to adapt to changes in the media industry. Perhaps that’s because many college papers rely on their respective schools for funding, leaving influential decisions beyond the reach of young journalists. But independent newspapers like The Heights cannot easily shake founding traditions, either. We printed twice per week until 2017 at a time when only 5 percent of American adults considered a print newspaper their main source of news. Most of our print editions were in the hands of professors, not students.
This has left everyone in college media wondering about the value of the print product, and to what extent a print paper has shifted from necessity to novelty. It’s a terrifying question to editors who must straddle the line between our love of print deadlines, process ink, and the thrill of seeing your name on something other than a screen. But these considerations don’t exist in a vacuum. Beyond our day-to-day or even year-to-year concerns, the mission of The Heights remains.
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In “About Ourselves,” the humbly named inaugural Heights editorial, the founding editors wrote that The Heights “can be no respecter of persons amidst the student body, it can only serve an ideal—For a Greater Boston College. Hence, no single individual can be greater than the ideal for the attainment of which this paper is founded, nor can his personal considerations ever be allowed to obstruct the application of the fearless principles upon which The Heights is launched. The paper will live up to the purity and ruggedness of its name.”
As The Heights enters its second century, we will continue to use these timeless principles to keep us moving forward. Perhaps the greatest enemy of progress for any college organization is time: at most, our editors have just over three years of their college experience to give to the organization. That stretch of time stands in the face of changes that require months or years of planning, thinking, and doing that could never be accomplished during any one editor’s tenure on the paper. In this next century, It should be the goal of The Heights to always remember how much larger the organization is than any single editor, board, or decade.
hat all being said, there is one (short) story I’ll tell in full. In 1920, Gasson Hall was still the “Recitation Building”; The Heights wouldn’t suggest its current name for another few decades. May of that year might have been a slow month for news, as the front page story from the May 21 issue covered trees being planted outside the building. Of the 27 newly planted linden trees, a few were “dedicated to some organization or activity closely connected with Boston College.” John Ring, The Heights’ first editor, was selected to plant the one dedicated to The Heights. The article included no pictures or indication as to which tree was which, but presumably, it’s still there.
And so are we.
Steven Everett, Editor-in-Chief
101st Board of The Heights
Featured Image from Heights Archives