For over 120 years, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has boasted an independent student-run newspaper that has evolved with the university to become a staple of UW Oshkosh’s student media.
The paper that is now known as The Advance-Titan began in 1894 as The Normal Advance, which was published by faculty members and students of the Oshkosh State Normal School, Wisconsin’s third teacher training school.
The Normal Advance was started by the school’s faculty in order to get news out to the entire student body and staff in a timely manner, as well as to provide students and faculty with opportunities to improve their writing skills.
Throughout its years of existence, the student newspaper has undergone multiple name changes, but in January of 1967 the paper became known as the Oshkosh Advance-Titan, eventually becoming simply known as The Advance-Titan.
The Department of Journalism was officially started in 1968, with David Lippert, a man with a background in newspapers and a strong belief in freedom of the press, at the helm in creating the new program. He also served as adviser to the student newspaper.
The Advance-Titan officially became a student organization in the 1970s, with the students pretty much in control over the day-to-day operations of the newspaper and a faculty adviser overseeing the group, giving advice and signing printing contracts so the print newspaper could be published each week.
According to journalism emeritus professor Gary Coll, who later also advised the newspaper, the students and faculty who were involved with The Advance-Titan were like a family, as they would often work through the night to put the paper together each week. They sometimes slept on the floor of Coll’s office in Radford Hall where the paper was put together at that time.
In the beginning, students putting together the newspaper had to convert typescript into camera-ready copy, and a student then had to drive the copy to Ripon where the papers were then printed. It was a lengthy process that required students to write their stories on typewriters, then input their stories into a device that would create a series of holes on a roll of 1-inch yellow paper, which was then inserted into a large phototypesetting processor that spit out the copy in columns. The paper columns of copy then were cut and pasted onto the large paper layout.
In 1992, the Advance-Titan offices moved to Reeve Memorial Union during Radford Hall renovations. The move was supposed to be temporary, but Reeve Union became the newspaper’s permanent home where it still operates.
Today, technology has made the process of publishing a newspaper much easier, with students writing, editing and designing the paper on Mac computers, as well as posting updates or breaking news on social media or its website.
But one thing has remained constant throughout the years, said Barbara Benish, current A-T adviser and in the 1980s, a writer and editor of the student newspaper. “The Advance-Titan is still one large family; the people you work with on a weekly basis become your best friends you can lean on during emergencies and celebrate with during successes. And those friendships continue on, even decades after graduating.”
Journalism professor Vince Filak, who served as Advance-Titan adviser for 10 years, said it is up to the students of today and tomorrow to see how the newspaper evolves in the future. “Where it goes is really kind of dependent on what the students see as a vision,” Filak said. “My vision was always been very simple; you are the voice, and you are at the service of the audience of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.”
Paul Anger has seen the newspaper industry evolve. He graduated from UW Oshkosh in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, and credits his career success to what he learned while working for The Advance-Titan as a student.
“Working on The Advance-Titan with creative, committed fellow students was really helpful,” said Anger, who retired in 2015 as editor/publisher of The Detroit Free Press. “We put in very long hours, and we were not micro-managed by Dr. Lippert, but he instilled in us high standards and expected us to meet them.”
In his 48-year newspaper career, Anger also worked as an editor or publisher for the Des Moines Register, the Knight-Ridder Washington Bureau and the Miami Herald.
Anger said journalism is a great opportunity to make the world a better place.
“I highly recommend journalism to anyone who is curious, has good word skills, and who wants to make the world a little better, or a lot better,” he said. “If you go into journalism and work on your craft, you will never have a dull moment. And you can feel good that the work you do truly makes a difference in people’s lives. There’s nothing ‘fake’ about that.”
Anger also recommends students not pay attention to the criticism journalists face today.
“Don’t pay attention to the criticism … from those with selfish, boorish, political motivations,” Anger said. “In the end, the truth always wins out. If you are a good journalist — careful, fair and accurate — your truth will win out. You are needed, now more than ever, in our democracy.”