The West is always the place for surprises, the place where new and strange experiments are tried. For in the long established and thickly settled parts of the country the spirit of conservatism is deeply set, the desire to make bold strides, to advance new ideas, almost nil; but in the west where the people are extremely energetic and unsurpassedly ready for change at least, and for improvement, where improvement is possible, all conservatism is quite unknown. And so we in the east study with interest what the west undertakes, and accomplishes, whether it be in politics, art, science, literature, or journalism. The few paragraphs following will be devoted to western journalism, and especially to western college journalism.
At the beginning of our study we find an element that must make the work of the western editor totally different from that of his eastern brother. Without a consideration of this element it would be impossible for us in any way to account for the striking differences between the college journals of east and west. Reference is had to co-education. While the fair sex is always an important addition to the different walks of life, it is especially important when considered in connection with college journalism. Women at college mean a much wider field for the work of the college editor, for they afford him readers for his "Fashion Notes," and "Society Happenings," and never leave him in want of spicy items for his "Local Column." What a strong argument for co-education these considerations suggest! Supposing college journalism worth encouragement, we can hardly find a better way of encouraging it than by admitting women to the colleges. Under co-education, a college editorship meets with comfort and ease, and has a far wider field for the development of that genius, which the college editor never lacks. And what if the fair co-eds are eligible to positions on the papers! We, in the east, can hardly conceive how intense the competition for positions on western journals must be. It is immense, and immense also is the work of the successful competitors.
In an editorial way the western papers are not much different from those nearer home. Complaints, wise suggestions in matters of college government and undergraduate conduct, sarcasm, good and bad taste, mighty phillipics, extravagant "swipes," are as prevalent there as here. There seems to be, however, a tendency towards meddling with politics, national or local. The little journal swells out enormously, and disagrees most decidedly with a recent appointment at Washington, or thinks that the city had better "begin work on the grading" of such and such a street as soon as possible. The current number contains its Thanksgiving editorial, and the reader almost sees the enthusiastic editor devouring the famous morsels of turkey, with eyes dilated, face jovial, and lips smeared with the oeleaginous parts of the "drum-stick." The picture is almost tantalizing. We leave the editorials and turn to the contributed articles.
The titles themselves almost frighten us. "Friendship," "Purpose," "Ruhmes Halle," - these have an unpleasant abstractness about them and hardly seem to belong to college journalism. Still, it must be confessed, some of these attempts at philosophy, at the ethical and the didactic, are exceedingly well made, and would reflect credit on papers of a higher order.
But the local items are the most attractive of all that we find in a western paper; and not only most attractive, but on the whole most instructive as well, in one way or another. Below are given some of these items, clipped quite promiscuously.
"The seniors are reading Milton's Areopogitica." This is interesting, and needs no comment. "Rescued from a watery grave! For particulars ask Smith." Here is something that plays vividly on the imagination. And too it imparts genealogical information. We learn with interest that a branch of the Smith family has been bold enough to go west and inflict its bane on western printers of college catalogues, who find the capital s's in their fonts far below the demand. "Arnold's father spent Sunday with him." Our sympathy for Arnold has no bounds. "Miss Daisy Lovejoy climbed the hill Saturday." A daisy on a hill-side is a picture that appeals to our most poetic natures. This item for a time completely absorbs our thoughts, until of a sudden we read with greatest surprise that "Miss Harris has a class in painting." The "fast express (limited)" brings us home with unpleasant haste. A local that is western becomes vividly eastern.
It takes some time for us to get west again. But once there, we are doomed to another sudden return. A western journal tells us, "Johnson has the heart disease." Home again! Indeed this is too much. The heart disease has gone west. Suffering students of the west, we give you our sympathy.
The shock we received from the last item is diminished but little, when it dawns upon us that the item was merely a tribute to western co-education. We find other tributes of a similar nature, for example, "MacPherson has a girl." "Adams called on Miss Harbrook Tuesday evening and was late in getting home." "Bronson spent last Sunday in Marshville. Bronson is spending too many Sundays in Marshville." "Hunter has a girl," etc., etc. All these items are refreshing. We read them, throw aside the western journals, lie back in our armchairs and think until we fall asleep. Then we dream.