JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) -The East Tennessean, East Tennessee State University’s (ETSU) student publication, is celebrating 100 years of operation and wants the public to join in.
“The East Tennessean has been around for 100 years,” Allison Winters, this semester’s executive editor, said. “It has gone through many advisors, many students, many executive editors. And so it’s looked different depending on who’s in charge and depending on who’s a part of it.”
The ET has taken on a variety of forms since its creation in 1923 but has spent the last 50 years with its current namesake. For a brief period, the publication operated as the “Pirate Press” without school approval but was reined in by a board vote. Now the publication is running a variety of events its 100th birthday.
“We’re always supposed to serve as the watchdog for issues on campus,” Winters, who’s served as editor for two years, said. “Sometimes people don’t always agree with the things we’re putting out or the fact that we’re putting certain things out, and that can kind of come as a challenge. But we always try to serve the campus in the best way we can.”
The organization maintains a respectful distance from school administration and funding, accepting only a student activity fee taken each semester like any other official extracurricular. Other costs like writer stipends and printing are covered by advertisements like any other local media.
The publication has also served to get fledgling journalists out in the field. Local news organizations are stocked with ET alumni and have been for decades.
“We’ve had a lot of alumni that have gone on to do great things,” Winters said. “So we’re really proud of the people that the East Tennessean works with and how we send them off to the workforce and how they usually get jobs here in the community or close to home.”
Don Armstrong, the paper’s faculty advisor for the last eight years, is glad to see a century of student work and faculty guidance pay off.
“My running joke is that I’m there to keep us from getting sued, but that’s always just been a joke,” Armstrong said. “My role really is more of a coaching role, sometimes just to offer guidance when it’s sought, and at times, if I see something that could use a little bit of advice, I’ll offer that.
“But the students run it all. I mean it is a totally student-driven enterprise. Students choose everything that is covered. They then put out the newspaper, they write all the articles, take all the photos, run the website.”
The ET has lived in several campus spaces, temporarily residing in offices in ETSU’s Center for Physical Activity before moving to a purpose-built media center space in the Culp Center.
The publication isn’t limited to lifelong journalists either. Students of all kinds have joined the team over the century.
“Of course, we have a lot of media and communication majors and English majors, but they come from all walks on ETSU’s campus,” Armstrong said. “We have biology, psychology, you name it. We’ve got different students who work for us in different capacities, all they have to do is have that interest.”
Seeing students go on to shape their community is one of Armstrong’s favorite parts of the position.
“You’re in it to see students be successful, better their lives and again get out into the industry and have successful careers,” Armstrong said. “And that’s why I’m always sincere when I say if you get the experience, if you put in the work, it will pay off at the end of the line.”