Alumni celebrate 100 years of student journalism at Lipscomb
Alumni from thirteen decades mark the centennial of continuous student reporting on the Lipscomb campus.
Janel Shoun-Smith/Contributors: Joy-Lyn Trotti and Larry Bumgardner |
Lipscomb University is a witness to 132 years of Christian collegiate history and 100 years of coverage by student journalists.
At the November Bisons Weekend celebration, Lipscomb welcomed more than 40 alumni Babbler and Backlog editors who graduated from the 1950s to the 2020s. In an open-mic session, the group reminisced about working in the days before modern media.
Larry Bumgardner (’77) recalled that the last Babbler printed with Linotype in 1974, was during his tenure on the Babbler staff. Use of the offset press in late 1974 gave staff the technology to move articles and photos around more easily to add late-breaking news and fit existing space.
Bumgardner also noted the importance of longtime Babbler advisor Eunice Bradley to the success of the Babbler as well as to the journalism careers of Babbler alumni.
In addition to serving as advisor to the Babbler staff, Bradley taught journalism at Lipscomb from 1954 to 1976 as well as serving as Lipscomb’s first sports information director. She was inducted into the Lipscomb Hall of Fame in 1991 and named a Lipscomb Legend in 2001.
Babbler editors-in-chief over the decades have excelled in the journalism profession, both in Tennessee and nationally, Bumgardner told the group.
Former editors have enjoyed success in many other fields, as well, he said. For example, Ruth (Morris) Collins (’35), former first lady of Lipscomb, and Howard White (’32), former president of Pepperdine University, were Babbler editors in the 1930s. In later decades, Babbler editors have gone on to become medical doctors, attorneys, judges and university professors and administrators, among other professions.
Alumni shared stories from the serious to the humorous, as they reflected on student life and studies while publishing a regular newspaper and annual yearbook. Pulling all-nighters, or nearly so, was a common theme heard from the student journalists no matter what decade they represented. Babbler editors were known to have stashed sleeping bags in their offices and evaded the night watchman’s probing flashlight to meet morning print deadlines.
Following the open mic, alums were treated to a showing of the 2023 Edward R. Murrow Award-winning documentary, The Grand Ole Guitar. Guests munched on popcorn and snacks as they watched the story of the Nashville Sounds’ iconic baseball scoreboard. Afterwards, the film’s student producers, Shawna Mann (’23) and Emma Shanahan, answered questions about the production, describing their one-on-one work with professional-in-residence and veteran journalist Demetria Kalodimos, Nashville’s longtime Channel 4 news anchor.
Saturday morning, journalism alumni toured the offices of the current student news bureau now called Herd Media, The Bison radio station, the broadcast studio and a large computer lab. Alums noted the modern state of current technology and facilities. Afterwards, they gathered in the Beaman Library for a coffee honoring student media.
“I worked harder in college than I ever worked in a real job,” Amy Kroenke Allison (’88), 1988 Backlog editor and later Lipscomb staff advisor for the yearbook, laughed during the morning coffee reunion. She also remembers sleeping in the office.
Textual pranks have also been common over the years. Craig Bledsoe (’75), former long-time Lipscomb provost and opinion writer in the 1970’s used to submit his editorials under pseudonyms, including B.M. Ocspil (“Lipscomb” spelled backwards).
Linda Meador (’65), 1964 Backlog editor, said she put a lot of pressure on herself to continue Lipscomb’s streak of national Associated Collegiate Press Awards for its yearbooks. So much so that she put mock photos of students in the book to make sure every page of headshots was perfectly even. They gave them faux names, such as “Harold O. Truth.”
According to Meador, the national association judges looked for every page to be filled, with no blank pages, despite the limitations of the letterpress printing technology of the time. So the Lipscomb yearbook editors of the 1960s found fun solutions to the problem, sometimes even creating “mock” club photos, including one where all the students had their coats on backwards, said Meador.
The Backlog staff also had their share of late nights, said Meador. Heading over to Shoney’s, a nearby drive-in restaurant, was a popular break during those long nights, she said. “Because we were working so much as a team, we became family,” she said.
Ernie Hyne (’73), 1973 Backlog editor, looked back through Babblers printed during his college years before coming to the coffee and was amused to see that in 1969, while the U.S. was filled with protest movements from coast to coast, Lipscomb had its own student protest: demanding that women be allowed to wear pantsuits to ballgames. The administration caved to student demands, he chuckled.
Nate Hollman (’94), Babbler editor in 1993, said his staff implemented a new weekly publication schedule for the student newspaper, which added a lot of stress to Sunday nights as they completed the newspaper in the basement of Johnson Residence Hall. He relied a lot on sports content to fill up the new, much larger, news hole on campus
Among the most recent graduates, McKenzi Harris Tope (’21), 2019-2021 editor-in-chief of the Lumination network, said covering the Dove Awards was among the highlights of her college career. Like many others, she recalls staying up late into the night after the award ceremony putting together a news package, but by that time it included social media posts, videos, photos and re-cap stories posted online.