By Billy Tuite
On March 6, Stoutonia will reach a rare milestone as the publication crosses its 99th birthday and cements its century-long existence. Yes, 100 years of covering the news, sports and entertainment of the University of Wisconsin–Stout campus, and 100 years of never admitting that nothing much is happening.
Stoutonia, which started out as a mere classroom project among some dedicated students in 1915, is now on the cusp of celebrating its centennial year. An occasion this momentous calls for a party of equally epic proportions.
When? Thursday, March 6 at 8 p.m.
Where? The Memorial Student Center Terrace
Stoutonia Pa100za, a massive 100th anniversary bash, will commemorate one of the longest running student organizations in UW–Stout’s history. According to Stoutonia Editor-in-Chief Jeff Gebert, this event has been a long time in the making.
“We began brainstorming ideas early last semester,” Gebert said. “We knew our 100th year of publication was going to be a very big deal, so we wanted a huge celebration that would commemorate this event while getting the students involved.”
Stoutonia is partnering with several other campus organizations to arrange this party, which consists of four segments.
The first, and possibly biggest, attraction is the concert in the Memorial Student Center Terrace, hosted by Blue Devil Productions. Featuring Minnesota-based rockers like Griswold and Farewell Continental and the side project of Motion City Soundtrack frontman Justin Pierre, these performances are sure to have students dancing to the beat.
“Farewell Continental have performed on campus in the past, and they always draw a pretty active crowd,” said Jessica Vaysberg, Stoutonia Pa100za’s events coordinator. “Justin Pierre is pretty well-known on campus.”
BDP’s music director Aaron Kelley echoes these statements. “Stoutonia was looking for an indie alternative rock vibe—something with high energy—and I thought Farewell Continental was a good fit,” Kelley said.
Second, a raffle will take place between musical acts. Stout Events Society is providing prizes for the raffle, though our interviewees remained tight-lipped on what students will be able to win.
Third, the Memorial Student Center will be supplying food in the form of taco chips with bean dip and salsa among a bevy of other snacks, ensuring attendees won’t leave on an empty stomach.
Last but not least, the Stoutonia staff have dug through the archives and selected segments from their favorite issues to display in a historical exhibit around the Terrace. Take a trip down memory lane and experience some campus happenings from decades past.
“We’re going to show the transformation of Stoutonia and how the publication has changed over the last hundred years,” Vaysberg said.
“The student newspaper is a good source of historical records,” added Professor David Tank, Stoutonia’s adviser. “Readers might think we put this out as a fleeting bi-weekly paper, but we’re also putting it together for posterity and history’s sake.”
Stoutonia Pa100za is a celebration of this uniqueness: a colossal century-long effort by a diverse, and rag-tag bunch of writers, editors, managers and photographers. This is also an opportunity for students to come rediscover the Stoutonia in both an old and a new context.
“It’s just going to be a fun night. Two awesome bands, prizes and free food: why wouldn’t you want to come?” Vaysberg asked.
Here’s to a hundred more years of student-run news.
Out with the old; in with the new
While this Pa100za celebration looks to the past, Stoutonia encourages readers to look to the future following spring break, as March 25 marks the launch of both the publication’s new website and a new, smaller print format of the paper.
“There are a few significant things that this period of time—not just the event—symbolize for Stoutonia on a historical level: the start of a big effort to grow not just as a print but also as an online news source, a new and improved layout design, an aim towards more controversial content and a different print format,” said Eric Koeppel, Stoutonia’s entertainment editor.
Stoutonia’s thriving success has not been without its fair share of problems, however, as issues with funding and distribution have caused plenty of duress among the staff.
“A big struggle for us in the past couple years has been finances,” Tank said. “For the most part, newspapers are funded by advertising sales. When ads begin to switch to the Internet, those ad sales dry up.”
Others agree that Stoutonia’s struggles are reflective of the news media industry at large.
“The newspaper industry is a bit of a tough industry these days. We’re always coming up with new ideas to adapt to the more online-focused news world,” Gebert said.
Indeed, Stoutonia’s ability to adapt to an increasingly connected readership is part of what’s helped it stay alive for so long. The staff have kept their heads up in the face of adversity and continue to put diligent and creative work into the publication.
“Our struggles with the paper have forced us to think of new ways to get the news out to more students,” Vaysberg said. “It’s been stressful, yes, but not discouraging.”
Memorial Student Center Director Darrin Witucki has also played a significant role in Stoutonia’s success by providing resources and general guidance to the organization.
“I still firmly believe the Stoutonia serves a really important purpose to the campus,” Witucki stated. “The paper provides a very unique and essential service in acting as a voice for the students.”
Professor Tank agrees that this voice is what separates Stoutonia from other news outlets.
“It’s a very niche, hyper-local paper that is made by students, for students,” Tank said. “Nobody else can say that. There’s no other Stoutonia in the whole world!”