Closer Look

Back to the Ashes: How The Phoenix has Risen

Ashley Iannantone // The Phoenix

“Loyola News belongs to the students, Loyola News represents the students, and by their efforts the paper will go over the top.” The first edition of the Loyola News displayed this mission in a short introduction.

After 100 years, Loyola’s student newspaper has undergone a name change and has been passed through the hands of hundreds of students, but the values outlined on that Nov. 2, 1918 issue haven’t changed.

WHAT WAS LOYOLA NEWS?

The introduction the first staff wrote is tucked beneath the masthead on page four of the edition. The 23 men on staff said Loyola News was meant to supplement the Loyola University Magazine, and would be published biweekly with no more than eight pages each issue in an effort to conserve resources just after World War I.

A few weeks ago, our editor-in-chief told me she wanted to publish a history of The Phoenix for our last issue. At first I was hesitant: Isn’t this a little self-serving? I felt as though it would be like writing a story about my entire history.

This feeling hung over me until I looked at some of the paper’s first issues.

The first edition of the paper, printed as The Loyola News, features a photo of a somber-looking soldier printed next to a headline “Fr. Furay and Geo. Mulligan Address Unit.”

The paper’s introduction stated the paper would publish activities, local and sporting news, short stories, verse and letters and notes from former students who were overseas.

“As long as the Huns are unbeaten, so long do we feel duty bound to do our bit, hence, so long will Loyola News — the wartime paper — be published,” the 1918 introduction said.

The university archives have two copies of the Loyola News from 1918 and then nothing until 1924.

Ashley Iannantone // The Phoenix
Ashley Iannantone // The Phoenix

Loyola News was published until 1970, when its name changed to The Loyola Phoenix.

“The Phoenix is the Loyola News — they just changed the name,” said Kathy Young, Loyola’s archivist. “It’s always been the same student newspaper.”

This contradicts the different stories that circulate about the origins of Loyola’s only student newspaper.

Young said the 1969 staff members incorporated the name “Loyola News” because they were upset about the student the administration picked to be the editor. Now a selection committee formed by the editor leaving, the paper’s advisors and faculty members picks the editor-in-chief. After incorporating Loyola News, the students formed The Loyola Phoenix in 1970 with the same structure and coverage as the old newspaper.

RISE OF THE PHOENIX

John Slania, one of The Phoenix’s advisors and a police, crime and feature writer for the Phoenix from 1975 to 1979, said he wasn’t sure how or why the paper’s name changed in 1970.

“Somebody told me it was some controversial story and the administration killed the Loyola News and then another group of students started The Phoenix rising from the ashes, but I don’t know if that’s true,” said Slania.

Brian McIntyre, the sports editor for the 1969 Loyola News and then for the 1970  Loyola Phoenix, said he doesn’t remember the politics of why the switch occurred. He said it may have had to do with the students who started The Phoenix wanting to focus more on advocating social reform.

“I know there were politics back and forth. I think that the people that broke away wanted to be more active politically,” said McIntyre. “I don’t think the people on the Loyola News were quite as radical as the people that started The Phoenix.”

WRITING THEN AND NOW

The issues and content the paper publishes remain largely the same. In 2009, former Editor-in-Chief Katie Drews created a special anniversary issue of The Phoenix.

She said they looked through several issues and republished some old stories in the paper, and were surprised by how many of the issues students wrote about in the old issues related to problems the university was facing while she attended Loyola.

“It was really interesting in how you could see some of the same issues we were experiencing at the time, and these were issues they were debating like 40 years earlier,” said Drews. “It’s like you’re in a time warp.”

Tuition, athletics and university governance are all recurring topics throughout the publication of Loyola News and The Phoenix, Young said, but she added there is a noticeable change in coverage in 1963, when the newspaper becomes more outward focused.

“It’s like you can read one issue in ‘62 and it’s still all the dances, and then you read an issue in ‘63 and it’s like, ‘Oh, they’re boycotting the Illinois Catholic Women’s Association down at Lewis [University],’” Young said. “It reflects a change in the national consciousness.”

HOLDING ONTO HISTORY

The archives are missing several issues from 1963, however. Young said she suspects someone stole all the issues covering the 1963 NCAA men’s basketball championship because they have all the issues leading up to basketball season and all the issues after the season, but none from during it.

The library has other gaps in its collection, partially because it did not begin to collect Loyola’s history until the University Archives were founded in 1938, when the Rev. John Mortell, S.J., saw that the university’s history, especially that of the Jesuits, was being lost.

Young has begun to digitize the old copies of Loyola News and The Phoenix, which can be found on the library’s website.

Young’s office and the website aren’t the only places students can find copies of the newspaper, though.

History Department Chair and professor Robert Bucholz started his own collection in the fall of 1989, a year after he started teaching at Loyola.

“All historians are packrats in one way or another,” said Bucholz. “We tend to see everything as future evidence about the past, at least I do, and that’s how I have always felt about those Phoenixes. If, in 2020, I want to recall what the big issues were on campus in 2015, where else would I look?”

The historian has about 650 different copies of The Phoenix, which have overflowed into a second cabinet drawer in his Lake Shore office.

Bucholz said little has changed with the types of stories The Phoenix covers since he came to Loyola. The issues he collected discussed a mix of international, national, local and Loyola news as the paper does today.

 The Phoenix newsroom in 2013 before it was moved from Centennial Forum Student Union to the School of Communication downtown. // Courtesy of Tahera Rahman
The Phoenix newsroom in 2013 before it was moved from Centennial Forum Student Union to the School of Communication downtown. // Courtesy of Tahera Rahman

THE PHOENIX TODAY

Both McIntyre and Slania said The Phoenix is more community focused now than it was when they were writing for it in the late 1960s and ‘70s.

“It’s much more disciplined now,” said Slania. “It’s focused on news that really affects Loyola and the students on campus, and the stories are definitely more tightly written, more newsy and shorter. It’s a much better newspaper than it was when I wrote for it.”

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The current newsroom with the Phoenix staff producing this issue. Marissa Boulanger // The Phoenix

While Slania was writing for The Phoenix, he said it was popular to publish 3,000-word stories, which is about 10-pages double-spaced. He thinks the current, more concise paper is helping students more.

“One of the things I really like about The Phoenix is it is an independent student voice that does have the ability to be a watchdog,” Slania said. “Nobody else on campus can do that but this independent student newspaper, and so you got to continue doing that. You serve an important role on campus for freedom of speech and the administration places great value in that. They read this paper; they want to know what you’re covering. They really do respect you.”

STAYING AFLOAT

In 2008 and 2009, The Phoenix began to experience financial issues.

“There was a period where we didn’t know if we would be able to publish anymore,” said Drews, who worked for The Phoenix in 2008 and 2009.

The paper then had to meet a weekly revenue requirement from advertisements, otherwise it would not get printed.

“It was kind of a wake-up call, because no one had really been paying attention to the finances to the extent that we should have been,” Drews said. “From that point going forward it was much more of a reality.”

The paper has never skipped a publication, though.

All of the former writers agreed writing for The Phoenix was a ton of fun. But it has never been about the students on staff. Investigating the roots of The Phoenix seems contradictory in a way, but part of working with any organization means understanding the values of that organization. And since this paper belongs to the students and represent students, it’s important for Loyola to understand what we represent.

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