'The Columbia Chronicle' Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary

Columbia launched the school’s first student newspaper “CC Writer” in 1973. Renamed “The Columbia Chronicle” in 1978, the news source now reaches its audience via multiple channels including its website and special quarterly print editions.

Back in 1973, a war raged in Vietnam, Chicago-based Sears, Roebuck & Co. completed construction of the world’s tallest skyscraper, and a national scandal known as Watergate tested U.S. democracy.  

That same year: Columbia launched the school’s first student newspaper “CC Writer.” 

During the past 50 years, the student-run news source — which became “The Columbia Chronicle” in 1978 — has covered moments in history both great and small from institutional leadership and curriculum changes to World Series victories and national tragedies to awe-inspiring concerts, performances, and festivals. And yes, even strikes.  

Through it all, the “Chronicle’s” student journalists have been there to report the stories as they learned by doing. 

 “This is not a simulation. This is not a playground. This is the real deal,” says Jeremy Shermak, general manager at the “Chronicle.” Shermak, along with the “Chronicle’s” Faculty Advisor Jackie Spinner, helps guide and advise the “Chronicle” student journalists. 

jeremyshermak_350.png“It's all about putting students in these real-life situations where they're covering actual news stories and talking to actual people … You really get a true taste of what it's going to be like when you go on and get a job in the field.” 

Since its inception, the “Chronicle” has helped launch the careers of many journalists, including Dennis Anderson ’85, former vice president of news operations at Shaw Media; Brent Lewis ’12, photo editor at “The New York Times;” Natalie Nash ‘92, director of public relations at the Illinois State Board of Education; and Fernando Diaz ‘04, a consultant with Newspack and former editor and publisher of "The Chicago Reporter."

More recent "Chronicle" alums working in journalism include Paige Barnes, '21, a reporter at WKRC-TV in Cincinnati; Kendall Polidori, '21, a music critic at "Luckbox" magazine; and Blaise Mesa, ‘19, a reporter for the "Kansas City Beacon."

Award-Winning Student Journalism Serves the Columbia Community 

Over the years, the “Chronicle” has received praise for its work, including many prestigious awards, accolades, and honorary mentions from various associations and competitions such as the Illinois College Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists, Associated College Press Association, Illinois Press Photographers Association, Illinois College Newspaper Business and Managers Association, U-WIRE Web Savvy Award, Best of the Midwest College Newspaper Convention, Apple Awards, Webby Award Competition, and Associate Collegiate Press. 

Earlier this year, the Solutions Journalism Network’s Student Media Challenge awarded the “Chronicle” a $10,000 grant to investigate student mental health issues through a solutions lens.  

oliva-cohen_300.pngAnd just recently, the “Chronicle’s” current Editor-in-Chief Olivia Cohen won the Sarah Brown Boyden Award in the Student Journalism category from the Chicago Journalists Association for her DEI reporting.   

Cohen believes the “Chronicle” serves the Columbia community in many ways by reporting on campus news and diving into complex issues at the college, while also writing about arts and culture topics around campus and throughout the city. 

“Our staff can write impactful arts stories — that are important to our arts college — while also getting under the skin of complex stories that hold the institution accountable or shine a light on topics that have not yet been discussed,” she says. 

Keeping Up With Changing Times 

Since its first issue, the “Chronicle” and journalism have undergone significant changes. When the paper first began, layouts were created using X-Acto knives and typesetting machines, a practice that was phased out with the advent of personal computers and design software. The internet, digital cameras, and social media didn’t exist.  

The newspaper eventually evolved into a news organization in response to changes in the industry, developing a website, podcasts, and other multimedia elements. Today, the “Chronicle” delivers daily coverage in a digital format, often through social media channels, and only prints quarterly themed editions, such as the Hip-Hop issue it released this month.  

What has remained unchanged, though, is the "Chronicle" staff’s commitment to journalism itself. 

jackie-spinner_300.jpg“They just keep chasing the facts,” Spinner says.  

The practice of using quality sources and finding multiple sources is essential for ethical journalism. “It’s what differentiates a journalist from a blogger or your crazy uncle on Facebook," Shermak says.

“Shoe leather reporting, pounding the pavement, all that kind of old-fashioned stuff that makes journalism different ... that has stayed the same at the ‘Chronicle.’” 

A Look Forward 

According to Cohen, it is important to continue the “Chronicle” for the next 50 years because solid, impactful journalism is the cornerstone of any community.  

“When looking back at the history of the college, the “Chronicle” — known as the CC Writer when it was founded in 1973 — was there to document it all,” she says. “We are documenting history at Columbia now with the part-time faculty strike. The “Chronicle” will continue to document campus history for years to come.” 


Photos in the story, top to bottom, are of Jeremy Shermak, Olivia Cohen, and Jackie Spinner. Cohen and Spinner photos courtesy of "The Columbia Chronicle."

Celebrate the Columbia Chronicle’s 50th Anniversary on Dec. 2

In recognition of its 50th anniversary, “The Columbia Chronicle” will host a celebration on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 1 to 4 p.m., on the second floor at 33 E. Ida B. Wells, Chicago.

The event will be an opportunity for “Chronicle" alums to return to Columbia, meet the current staff, and reconnect with their peers. Fernando Diaz ‘04 will be a guest speaker. Diaz is former editor and publisher of "The Chicago Reporter" and former managing editor of "Hoy Chicago," the Tribune Media’s Spanish-language daily. He is now a consultant for Newspack..

Registration is $30, which includes light snacks and a donation to the “Chronicle” Gift Fund. For $50, attendees will receive light snacks and a 50th anniversary Columbia Chronicle T-shirt. 

Register here 

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