When the Yale Daily News attained the age of sixty a few days ago, its editors contented themselves with printing President Roosevelt's "hearty congratulations," the Vassar Miscellany's "AVID INTEREST IN YALE DAILY NEWS STOP THINK ITS SWELL PAPER," and nineteen other testimonials. Rejoicing took the place of retrospection, and the editors never asked themselves if three score years had proven college journalism to be worth the candle.
When a group of students take on the task of voicing undergraduate sentiment, their powers for doing harm obviously exceed their capacity for doing good. Aided by the public's tendency to confuse the writings of a dozen men with the unanimous opinion of an undergraduate body, they win a larger following than perhaps they deserve. And if Benjamin Franklin could deplore the power of a grown man when he acquired "a Press, and a huge Pair of BLACKING BALLS," how much more dangerous are the caprices of irresponsible students. A thoughtless attack, a distortion of fact that may seem funny at the time, a vicious opinion purporting to state college sentiment, these are all within the power of college editors, and these are the things that can cut short a career, besmirch a character or hinder the work of an endowed institution.
If college publications are over-cautious in their approach, on the other hand, if they are loath to expose existing evils or to oppose their college in matters of policy, they again lose their value. Indeed this failing, this trend toward the inconsequential, is all too manifest in contemporary college journalism.
Yet youth, the handicap of college editors, is also their advantage, for they are without the ties, convictions, and prejudices of older men. Ideally they mould and crystallize that which is finest in undergraduate opinion, developing and stimulating undergraduate thought, while staying always one jump ahead of the college in pointing the way to reform. Ideally they are conscious of their obligation, as Dean Leighton once put it, "to be accurate in statements of fact, and cognizant of other possible views in statements of opinion."
The editors of the "Oldest College Daily,"' and the editors of every other college publication, our own included, should ask themselves if this code still obtains, if American college journalism still serves a useful function; and still warrants its perpetuation.