This year we actively celebrate the University’s history leading up to the Sesquicentennial celebration on Oct. 12, 2024. The University Libraries are hard at work researching the past, preserving it, and making this history as accessible as possible to the modern-day audience. Part of that work includes digitizing historical records, and one fascinating bit of history is the student-run newspaper.
The University of Nevada, Reno was founded on Oct. 12, 1874, and just 19 years later, on Oct. 19, 1893, the students of the University published the first edition of a student-run newspaper, which they called The Student Record.
That first edition included the purpose and mission of the paper:
“Our primary object is to create in the minds of the young men and women of Nevada, and adjacent territory, a conviction of the need of a higher education and inspire them with a determination to obtain it. We will also aim to promote the college spirit among the students of the State University and to elevate athletics in that institution, to the important place that it occupies in the leading colleges of our country. The Record will be independent in politics and reserve the right to criticize all parties and measures. It will, however, advocate the enactment of such laws as will restore silver to the place it occupies previous to its demonetization.”
While many things have changed since 1893, one thing has not – the students of the University are dedicated to actively telling the stories originating from, and affecting, the University and its stakeholders.
The student newspaper, now called The Nevada Sagebrush, states its simplified mission on its website:
“The Nevada Sagebrush aims to keep students, faculty and the University of Nevada, Reno community updated on all matters concerning the Nevada campus.”
The digitization project
Katherine Dirk is the digitization lab manager of the Digital Services department in the University Libraries. Dirk and her team collaborate closely with the Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) department, which holds the physical newspapers.
“Our team digitizes unique or historical materials to make them available in the Digital Archive,” Dirk said. “There are four student employees who have been working on The Nevada Sagebrush project: Kayla Arcangel (who has now graduated), and current students Megan Adymy, Levi Kinder-Ebersberger and Fenn Edmonds.”
This hardworking team has been focused on digitizing the student newspapers dating all the way back to the first edition from 1893.
“It’s important to complete this project to make these historical newspapers easily available for students, researchers, alumni and community members,” Dirk said. “You can see how our campus and student body have evolved over time. There are significant events in campus and U.S. history, as reported through the lens of student journalists, and it is a very rich resource!”
There are 130 years of history of the student newspaper, many editions of which were only printed on paper.
“We began digitizing the newspapers in June of 2022,” Dirk said. “While digitization will be complete in the coming weeks, it will take several more to complete post-production.”
Digitization is the process of digitally photographing the hard copies of the newspapers. Some of the papers, especially the earliest editions, require very careful handling to avoid unnecessary damage. Post-production is the process of cropping the images, straightening them and creating PDFs with metadata enhancement.
“Once we have digitized the materials, the Libraries’ Metadata, Cataloging, and One-Time Acquisitions department (MCOTA) department enhances and formats the description of the material, so it is searchable in databases and by search engines,” Dirk said. “It is a collaborative effort to make these unique materials available online!”
The team has already digitized over 4,200 issues (over 114 years so far) with more to come, as they plan to digitize all the physical newspapers.
Despite the enormity of the project, the team is eager to make these records available to the public. “We plan to regularly add issues online as we finish sets of decades,” Dirk said.
Changes over time
As the Digitization team has worked on the newspaper, they have discovered a few milestones and noticed various changes throughout the lifetime of the paper. One of the things that has changed is the cadence with which editions were published. At times, the paper was published monthly, sometimes twice a month, sometimes weekly, but the most common publication rate was weekly. Today, The Nevada Sagebrush publishes all its articles online and often publishes content daily.
Here are just a few of the major transitions that the student-run newspaper has gone through in the last 130 years:
In the August 29, 1910 issue, the editor wrote of the name change: "The reasons for this action have been assumed by the editor on various grounds, one of which is that the editor deems the name more typical and characteristic of our sagebrush school, and because we are generally known as such amongst our neighboring schools and on the coast as a whole. Another is that the title is an index to the contents, both in nature and locality."
- The first issue of the student newspaper, The Student Record, appeared on October 19, 1893.
- In 1910, the student newspaper, The Student Record, changed its name to The U. of N. Sagebrush.
- In 1967, the student newspaper, The U. of N. Sagebrush, changed its name to Sagebrush.
- In 2004, the student newspaper, Sagebrush, changed its name to The Nevada Sagebrush, which it still holds to this day.
The digitization team has also noticed that the tone of the student newspaper has always been strong.
“The tone in the newspaper can be very assertive at times,” Dirk said. “According to an article, The Sagebrush celebrates 125 years, and looks to the future, The Student Record was created from students rebelling against the Board of Regents after being told by the Board they couldn't have a newspaper at the University because it was too much responsibility for students to handle. The student journalists were not afraid to voice students' concerns about politics, war, administration, etc. Even today, The Nevada Sagebrush states in its media kit: ‘One of the oldest student newspapers in the nation, The Nevada Sagebrush has remained a consistent and aggressive voice of the University of Nevada, Reno since 1893.’”
That same tenacity and spirit resonate with the current newspaper staff. Emerson Drewes is the Editor-in-Chief and said that they are proud to continue the legacy of the student newspaper.
“Celebrating 130 years is an incredible milestone for our staff as well as anyone who has held a Sagebrush newspaper in their hands,” Drewes said. “When I became editor I was told we had about 2 years left. I thought the 130th might be the last time we get to celebrate. Now, we are taking significant steps towards staying at the University for the next 130 years; by raising our reserves by $12,000 within eight months and being relentless in our proposal of a student credit fee, I am confident the Sagebrush is here to stay.”
To celebrate the 130th anniversary, they have a few special things lined up including bringing back a print edition with special Sagebrush facts and releasing commemorative 130th-anniversary merchandise.
The student-run newspaper has been a staple of the University since 1893 and Drewes is committed to keeping this resource available for students.
“Student newsrooms hold an important place on every university campus, mainly due to transparency,” Drewes said. “As a hyperlocal newsroom, that covers only the 200 acres the University sits on, we can hone in on the issues and news on campus. Student journalists engage with the campus community in ways other reporters cannot. There are so many stories that would not be covered if not for us, and every single story is important.”
To dig deeper into the history of the University, you can review several digital collections in the Digital Archive. To access previous issues of the student-run newspaper online directly, you can also visit The Nevada Sagebrush digital collection.