"GOOD GRACIOUS, chum! what shall I write about?" "Don't know, and don't care; it's sure to be stupid, anyhow, so don't spoil a good subject." "I guess I'll write on 'English and American Society.'" "What!!! Have n't you read the Advocate, on the 'limits of a college paper'? Don't you know that 'our paper should be filled exclusively with articles that have a connection with the college, - with the life here, the studies, the events of interest, that occur every day'?" "What these events of interest that happen every day may be, chum, I don't know, but I should think that article might be one, from a humorous point of view at least. Let me see it."
I read the article through, and decided upon my subject. This is certainly local, too local, I fear, but it may have that "peculiar" interest so desirable in a college paper, at least to some of my fellow-students.
I have amused myself by constructing a table of contents for a paper on the approved plan, largely suggested by those of a paper already published here, if not read. This must be made up of articles that have a connection with the College, with the life, studies, and the aforesaid events of interest. It might run as follows: Imprimis, a reprint of the bulletin-board, then a few remarks on college prayers; after which we might have a few lines of poetry on "My Love," or "The Fading Daisy," - for poetry is allowed a license in this matter that makes me think the author must be a poet (a conclusion in which the rambling style of the article further confirms me). One would think, by the by, that the poetry might be satisfactorily limited to the flowers that grew in the Yard, the goodies, and other kindred subjects. But after this breathing-place, we shall come again to an arid waste on the subject of college studies, the choice of electives, or, if the author be particularly happy, a discourse on the moral indications to be deduced from ulsters or cigarettes, with a playful allusion or mournful dirge over "impure thoughts." On the whole, I imagine one of the chief subjects of interest to the persons who wrote such a paper - for the persons who would read it are too few to be considered - would be the sight of a pair of checked pants, or a "caporal," with the moral conclusions drawn therefrom. We might appropriately place after this a poem on "Submission," to which the previous articles would lend a lively zest, and close with a report of the last Faculty meeting, and a table of statistics from the archives of the athletic societies.
These suggestions are free to all, and should they meet with favor, I could add a few variations, for a change, to prevent the writer's growing weary. The readers, as I said before, for obvious reasons, need not be considered.
But why limit this glorious reform to college journalism? Surely, if college students can only write well on "articles that have a connection with the college," etc., it would seem to follow that they could only talk well on the same subjects. The entrancing interest of society under these conditions may be imagined.
But, after all, what is the end of a college paper? What are the editors trying to do? At first I thought that they contemplated moral reform and spiritual advancement among the students; but I find on experience, much to my sorrow, that the sad and humiliating fact is that they want to make the paper sell, and have few motives higher than to be able to make their books balance. To do this they must please as many as possible, to secure a large circulation. And so it seems as if the programme might be profitably left to them, who know best, and are likely to choose best, what is demanded.
The general verdict is, and to this conclusion the writer is driven by the fate of several previously rejected essays on "Etruscan Philology," that people want to be amused, and take the papers chiefly for that end. Of course there are different tastes in amusement; for example, I should suppose that any one who could give such an inane opinion of one of the most delicate satires that has graced the college papers, as F. G. does of the "Religion of the Mound-Builders," would probably find his sense of humor gratified by a table of logarithms, while there are others whose chief delight is to build a tower of moral rectitude whence they may alternately gloat over their own superiority and lament the vulgarity of the crowd. As I said, tastes differ, and it is well that each should have its representative, but when one sets up bounds outside of which a college student is supposed not to know enough to write, and not to care enough to read, I can only say, "Please don't."
B. W. W.