90 Years and Going Strong

A review and outlook of the future for the student newspaper and media at Messiah

Features Editor: Nicholas Tay

This issue of the Swinging Bridge commemorates the 90th anniversary of the student-run paper. While we celebrate the longevity of the newspaper and the importance of student media’s innumerable opportunities for all interested students, we should also take some time to explore the origins and history of student media at Messiah. What was WVMM like in the 1980s? Why the student paper is named the Swinging Bridge?

In 1983, a campus-wide event was held to rename the school paper. The Ivy Rustles, as we were known back then, was experiencing some difficulties and the administration decided to restructure the newspaper.  The overhaul of the newspaper called for a fresh start, thus students were invited to submit their ideas. Dave Olsen, a senior biology major, submitted the name the Swinging Bridge, and the rest is history.

Olsen remembers his reasons for giving the school newspaper its current name. “A couple of friends and I decided to join the newspaper naming contest. The alumni magazine was called The Bridge and they had just completed the swinging bridge across the Yellow Breeches. So I thought it was appropriate to name the paper the Swinging Bridge as a complement to the alumni magazine.”
But Olsen does not believe his name for the paper should have won. “If I were the person judging the submitted names, I actually would not have chosen the Swinging Bridge. My friend submitted the title Messiah’s Handle. I thought that name was pretty clever as it was a play on the famous Handel score.”

As a reward for winning the naming contest, Olsen received $15, which he claimed would “buy him 60 Ms. Pac Man games”. Olsen admits he forgot about his statement but gave reasons for his quip. “The snack shop in the campus center just got a Ms. Pac-Man machine earlier that year and several of us were quite addicted to the game. We essentially had all the screens memorized and that of course took a lot of practice and quarters. We could pretty much play forever on one quarter, let alone $15.”

During his time at Messiah, Olsen was also involved in student media. He was the photography editor for the Clarion and the Swinging Bridge during his junior and senior years. “I got the yearbook position my junior year when the previous photography editor unexpectedly quit.  Coincidently, the school newspaper was also looking for photography editor for the newspaper when it was undergoing its struggles during the Ivy Rustles era.”

Olsen is now a researcher with the pharmaceutical corporation Merck, where he has spent the past 22 years working on drug discovery for HIV and hepatitis C. While he currently works with health professionals and scientists on discovering drugs for neglected and tropical diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, chagas and leishmania, he values his time in student media. “Those were important and rewarding jobs where I learned so much. To this day, I think I take much better photographs for my family because of my experience in the newspaper and yearbook.”

The radio is another important part of student media at Messiah. During the 1970s, the radio station was broadcast from an attic in the library and was limited to dorms through carrier current – form of AM radio transmission. The radio switched to the FM transmission in the late 1980s, with student life maintaining a consistent broadcast. Over the years, the radio has displaced multiple times. It was once located at the bottom of the Engle Center, moved in a house where the current Larsen Student Union stands, followed by a two-and-a-half spell in the basement of Miller, before finally settling down in the Union upon its completion in 2004.

While geographical change has influenced the radio’s broadcasting methods, its biggest change was brought about by WVMM’s desire to remain relevant to the Messiah student body. According to Dr. Ed Arke, the faculty advisor for the Pulse, WVMM diverged from a Christian-only station to an entertainment medium which included secular voices. “When I first came here in 1997, WVMM only played Christian music while SAB brought in only Christian performers and held only Christian concerts. When SAB changed their policies in the early 2000s, WVMM trailed a little, but quickly followed that trend by reflecting the students’ desires.”

With the integration of Messiah’s student media outlet into a conglomerated organization, Arke believes the future looks bright for student media. “What’s nice about the Swinging Bridge being under the Pulse umbrella is its ability to overlap with the different forms of student media. So in-between the biweekly print editions, we’re able to communicate fresh information through the radio, the Pulse website and social media outlets.”

Arke also thinks the newspaper will be around for some time but it might evolve to reflect the students’ needs and desires. “I believe the Swinging Bridge will survive for a good while as a biweekly print, but it might become a monthly features-focused magazine. It’s really hard to predict what will happen because the Pulse came about to reflect real-world journalism and broadcasting. It will also depend on student interest – whether anyone will write for the paper and whether people will pick up the paper.”
Whether the Swinging Bridge stays the same for the next decade or changes its name or form, student-run media has and will be an important news conduit for years to come.

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