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Celebrating 100 years of a 'magical place'


By David J. Cieslak


Student programs at the University of Arizona come and go. Too often, students graduate or lose interest and excellent organizations fall by the wayside.

But for 100 years, a student-run publication, now known as the Arizona Daily Wildcat, has been a constant presence on this campus, providing the university with its news every morning and offering students a place to hone their journalistic skills and make life-long friends.

Known only as a pit to outsiders, the drab, windowless newsroom in the basement of the Student Union is nonetheless a prolific place that has provided a foundation for some of the top journalists in the U.S. As one former staffer recently said, the Wildcat is truly "magical."

Students who have worked in every branch of the Wildcat - from the advertising department to the newsroom and production office - have moved on to prominent positions and gained fame for their talents. In my own time here, friends have taken positions at the Associated Press, The Sporting News, Time Magazine and the Arizona Republic.

A key part of the University of Arizona, the Wildcat publishes more than 150 issues every year, and 10 more in the summer to boot. With a 20,000 circulation and more than 35,000 readers daily, the newspaper has become an integral part of Tucson and the university community.

The UA football team plays about 10 games every year. Spring Fling occurs annually. But the Wildcat publishes a newspaper every morning, filled with the sweat and tears of students who work to ensure that the product will be top quality.

While it may sometimes be underappreciated by students and UA community members, the Wildcat does strive to offer a fair, conditioned piece of journalism.

Recently, the paper has been honored with numerous awards including the acclaimed Pacemaker, and has been recognized as the fourth-most-read college newspaper in the nation by the Princeton Review, a top polling organization.

Being independent of editorial control by university officials is truly a privilege that everyone in the newsroom should respect.

It is an outrage to read that college papers across the country are being censored by university administrators. Stories are too often killed, editorials are softened, reporters are disciplined and editors in chief are fired simply for standing behind the First Amendment and requesting the basic right to report the truth.

But because the Wildcat is financially self-sufficient - currently garnering more than $1.3 million a year from advertising sales - it can maintain editorial independence from the university and student government, thus allowing the freedom to always print the facts about issues that affect the lives of UA community members.

The Wildcat saw Tucson turned up-side-down when the UA men's basketball team clinched the national championship.

It saw University Medical Center doctors perform breakthroughs in heart surgery and transplants.

It celebrated the achievements of students and mourned with the community as its members passed away.

And the Wildcat documented the UA Journalism department's near-demise, which could have left many of the newspaper's staffers without a field of study and the guidance that faculty members provide.

As the University of Arizona undergoes a cosmetic rebirth - constructing a new student union and building a freshman center in the Mall's heart - the Wildcat will remain, standing proud as always, albeit in a new location, with another crop of editors and new stories to cover.

Even though, in the grand scheme of things, students pass through the Wildcat too quickly, the paper can and must survive.

One hundred years is only the beginning. It is truly an honor for myself and the current staff members to celebrate the Wildcat's centennial anniversary.

David J. Cieslak is the editor in chief of the Arizona Daily Wildcat and a junior majoring in journalism.


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