Blast from the past, The Guardsman history

A collage of the Free Critic and The Guardsman's published articles dating back from 1964 to 1967. Illustration by Santiago Mejia
A collage of the Free Critic and The Guardsman’s published articles dating back from 1964 to 1967. Illustration by Santiago Mejia

By Alex Lamp

The Guardsman

The Guardsman, City College’s award-winning newspaper has evolved and transcended despite some rough times during the last 75 years.

The journalism department is currently experiencing a decrease in enrollment as a result of the college being threatened with the possible loss of its accreditation.

The publication is seeking passionate students who believe in the future of the community and want to carry on the tradition of reflecting the growth of the college, San Francisco and the nation.

“The Guardsman has come a long way since the early days. It certainly is more focused on trying to grapple with real issues in the college,” The Guardsman faculty adviser and Journalism Department Chair Juan Gonzales said. “For the most part, it is more interesting, with a greater variety of stories.”

Historical Relevance

After reviewing The Guardsman’s entire archive and speaking to those who have cultivated its current incarnation, it is evident that the newspaper has almost always attempted to meet student needs.

Monday, Aug. 26, 1935, marked the birth of The Junior College of San Francisco’s first ever news publication. The paper was titled Emanon, or “no name” spelled backward, and was a bi-weekly publication.

J.O. Goodell was the first adviser for the campus newspaper, which was published by the Associated Students. The Emanon name was short-lived.  After two issues, the first issue of The Guardsman published on Sept. 13, 1935.

“During 1935 and 1936, The Guardsman office was located at Galileo High School, until the Science Hall was built,” Christopher Kox, coordinator of the library archives, said as he rummaged through aged files and catalogues, searching for tidbits about The Guardsman history.

Goodell was an advisor to the paper for nine years.  He resigned in 1944 and was replaced by Joan Nourse Muscio.

The journalism department was featured in City College’s catalog for the first time in 1947, but Muscio was not hired by City College until a year later.

When Muscio took over The Guardsman, she made it a four-page weekly newspaper until the fall of 1948.

“Back then, a lot of students working for the newspaper ended up getting jobs working at the Chronicle and the Examiner,” Gonzales said.

Tom Graham was one of those City College students.  A former editor-in-chief at The Guardsman, Graham later worked at the San Francisco Chronicle.  He is now a City College instructor and is the faculty advisor of City College’s Etc. Magazine, as well as the adviser for the newspaper at College of Marin.

Other notable alumni from The Guardsman include retired, award-winning sports writer for the Oakland Tribune Nick Peters and ABC News anchor Cheryl Jennings.

Starting in September 1964, The Guardsman featured stories about the “Big Six” Student Council cabinet, an article featuring drama, music and journalism, and an article written to incoming freshmen about campus life at City College.

For the next three years, these articles were formatted in exactly the same way in select issues with the same headlines, bylines removed and different student officer profiles, excluding the up-to-date sports sections and new student officers.

“My theory is that it was Joan Nourse doing it,” Kox said. “She used something called a boilerplate. You come in at the beginning of the semester with a bunch of new students who are working for the paper, and say, ‘Here we got this news all ready to go. Paste it up and send it out there. It will get us started.’”

New leadership

Muscio resigned in 1968 and after several more faculty advisers Gonzales, a Stockton native, took over as the newspaper adviser Spring 1985.

He felt the need for a change. The paper had to be more of interest of the community with stories covering issues related to the readers.

After keeping the traditional broadsheet for a few issues, Gonzales changed to a tabloid format. As a result, the paper became easier to hold and issues fit better on newsstands, making distribution easier.

The size of the paper was not the only major change Gonzales introduced. The use of color ink began to appear in the 1990s, breaking up the monotony of the black-and-white layout.

From the 1990s and into the 2000s, The Guardsman went through a stage of modernization.

“The Guardsman went under its renaissance when it first launched its website,” Joe Fitzgerald, past editor-in-chief of The Guardsman and Bay Guardian staff writer, said.

The website was launched in 2008 by designer/editors Alex and Jessica Luthi, who were husband and wife.

“They really nurtured The Guardsman,” Fitzgerald said.

The Luthis turned over the website to Greg Zeman, who Fitzgerald said “was a half insane, totally intelligent Jewish guy with a big old beard and a big gold Star of David that he would wear around like Flava-Flav. He gave The Guardsman an alternative indie feel.”

Fitzgerald said the website gave The Guardsman a new mentality.

Before the website, students were competing with each other to appear in print.

“The website gave the students ownership. They were able to publish things on their own and the paper became a dynasty of friends,”  Fitzgerald said.

The website serves a different purpose than the newspaper.

Students who attend the college more often read the paper. People who read the website often do not attend City College, but have some connection to it. They may be family of students, friends or alumni of the college.

Now that The Guardsman is paired up with the website, there is an entirely new frontier to be explored. Both the website and the paper are equally important in the Internet age.

“I think the paper always needs to be an equal component to the website,” Fitzgerald said. “They need to compliment each other because they serve different functions.”

The Guardsman has maintained its relevance in times of both social and technological changes.

Today’s students not only have to put out a newspaper every two weeks, but they also have to update the website, use social media and distribute the paper efficiently to its audience.

It is going to take the hard work and determination of The Guardsman and its staff to continue to provide college news by students for students.


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