One hundred years ago, at the request of then-ACU president Jesse P. Sewell, Arthur Slater crafted the first Optimist. He served as editor, reporter, copy editor, typesetter and pressman of the monthly eight-page publication.
The Optimist has increased in size and quality since its founding in 1912. Now, more than 40 students assemble the twice-weekly broadsheet along with many other JMC Network products – including the Optimist website. As for quality, the Optimist frequently ranks as one of the top college newspapers in Texas.
But, 100 is just a number. Significant benchmarks don’t always lend themselves to increments of five or 10 or 100 years. The Department of Journalism was founded in 1955. The Optimist’s first website was launched in 1997. The Optimist entered Apple’s iTunes app store in 2010.
Artificial milestones are set because we are creatures of nostalgia. We chose to celebrate increments of 10. People want events to fit nicely on a timeline; we want to schedule our sentiment. It feels good to look back at our accomplishments once we’re safely on the other side, but we can’t allow ourselves to wallow in the past.
Now, we’ve given ourselves a reason to entertain our nostalgic tendencies without becoming tipsy on our own history. We look back at how we covered university news – shorts, drinking Â and dancing policies. We reflect on changes in campus and national culture: integration, women’s rights and religious tolerance.
Issues as important as integration and as insignificant as pledging policies are visible through the lens of the Optimist. Journalism is the first draft of history. Without the benefit of hindsight, reporters record events deemed important. Here we look at what was covered, what wasn’t covered and what stories were stifled.
As a newspaper staff this gives us an opportunity to indulge ourselves, a chance to compare this four years of our life to that of the 99 years of staffers before. What trouble did they cause? What stories did they cover? Did they sleep?
We can take this moment to show readers what we do and why; we can show them that campus news doesn’t just appear on their Facebook feed or in their hand after Chapel. We fold hundreds of hours of work – and the remnants of our social lives – into the pages of this paper.
In this issue, we will tell them why. We can introduce them to the history that drives our dedication, a chance to show the legacy that motivates us.
In looking back we find that we are better now. And that reveals opportunities for greater things to come.
In the first edition of the Optimist Arthur Slater wrote, “We feel sure that we can give you your money’s worth in every issue. We are going to make it a success from the start.”
We hope to do the same.