The Oredigger Stands Strong: Mines’ student newspaper encourages students to share their voices and remains a lasting tradition on campus
For nearly a century, The Oredigger has served as the voice of Mines students. Within hundreds of archived volumes, articles explore the history and evolution of the university, its students and its faculty. From the Roaring Twenties, to the cultural revolution of the 1960s, to today’s current events, the student publication has chronicled the dynamic spirit on the Mines campus through the decades.
Printed across the masthead of the very first issue of The Oredigger, published March 21, 1921, is “O Miners, when expelled from other habitations, make this thy hangout.” As a publication on a science and engineering campus, this first edition established clear and unique goals to serve its target audience by focusing on topics other than research, declaring that a school newspaper “should be the history of the institution and its personnel, but in no sense should its province be that of a technical journal … The Oredigger is destined to be the true barometer of the quality of the old Mines Spirit.”
There are surprising similarities between the spirit embedded within the earliest issues of The Oredigger and the publications that are delivered across campus today. Articles cover the M Climb, athletics and campus events, as well as academic awards and department honors. But the way stories are written has drastically changed since 1921.
“Before we had the Daily Blast and before social media became the way to be informed about what was happening on campus, The Oredigger was the only way to get information,” 2016-17 editor-in-chief Katharyn Peterman said. “If you look back at some of the old issues, they talk about everything.”
The contrast between past and present content is stark. Issues of The Oredigger from the 1920s ran articles that would pass the 140-character limit on Twitter today: “Miss Irma Downes, the librarian, was unable to attend to her duties for a few days last week because of illness;” “The April Quarterly will be ready for distribution this week;” “If plans materialize, an elective elementary course in French will be given next year.” Today, writers for The Oredigger delve into the details to more extensively feature Mines events, clubs and the student body.
“When there were no other resources, you relied on the newspaper,” 2017-18 editor-in-chief Erica Dettmer-Radtke said. “Now, I think we are forced to be more creative, because we are competing with so many other news sources like Facebook and Instagram.”
Writers and editors contribute their own unique style and voice to the longstanding publication, while new technologies and programs empower the staff to explore more of campus and Golden than ever before. But Bill Wilson ’65, business manager of The Oredigger in 1963, said the skills he learned working on the paper are still applicable to everyday life. “I got a lot of experience in managing things and that really did me well in my career,” he said.
Wilson managed the ad space, working by hand to prepare The Oredigger’s layouts. “At 6 o’clock every Saturday morning, I would go down to the printers,” he said. “If we got a solicitation for an ad, we had to have what they wanted. My job was to lay it out before the editorial staff could fill in the rest of [the paper].”
Today’s staff still experience the long hours working on layouts—though now the process is entirely digital—and continue to learn valuable lessons from the print journalism industry that affect their career development and professional goals in the science and engineering fields.
“I’ve learned time management, how to lead people and a lot about business because this is a lot like running a small business,” Peterman said.
“My journalism skills have gotten better and my eye for detail has improved,” Dettmer-Radtke said. “In my papers and in my reports, I focus a lot more on the little things, which might take more time, but overall it makes a project more presentable.”
As students rotate through their time at the university and with the publication, The Oredigger evolves to serve a changing campus population. “We can gauge our audience,” Dettmer-Radtke said. “We know what is interesting to our generation. We can change as the year or as the semester goes on, which means we can keep an audience.”
Today, the masthead of The Oredigger reads, “The student voice of Mines since 1920.” And the publication staff sitting in their office on the first floor of the Student Center take this journalistic mission to heart, tirelessly working to represent the broader student body. “It allows students to have a platform to discuss problems or good things that are happening on campus,” Peterman said. Dettmer-Radtke added that The Oredigger is “providing a news source by students for students.”
The Oredigger staff is a mix of creative students from various engineering and science disciplines. So what draws these students to print journalism? For Wilson, in the mid-1960s, simple word of mouth brought him into the publication. For Dettmer-Radtke, pursuing stories for The Oredigger has opened doors.
“The opportunity to network on campus and all the people you get to meet is such an asset,” she said. “You get a lot out of this. And you get to learn a lot more about what’s going on around campus.”
“If you look at our staff, we want to be involved in something that produces something that all of campus gets to see,” Peterman said. “We are trying to truly be the students’ voice at Mines.”
Stay up to date with what is happening on the Mines campus and what our student journalists have to say by picking up the latest issue of The Oredigger around campus or by visiting oredigger.net.