I celebrate the last print issue of our legendary State Press recounting the paper wars of 1985.
The ASU I grew up in had a recession in hand. The pot-happy sixties were over, the seventies saw the rise of disco freaks and heroin junkies. Ronald Reagan and AIDS defined the eighties more than Free Love and Jimmy Hendricks. ASU is bursting with ideological and religious energies. Brother Jed and Sister Cindy screamed repentance to jocks and suntan girls in shorts, who encircled the preachers with both amusement and attention.
My first article was published in January 1983: “Patty Bowie is the kind of girl you expect to meet at an alley. But her friends rarely see her in the gutter.” It was a profile of ASU’s bowling champion, product of one of my clases. My teacher suggested I hand it over to the State Press. I was hired soon after.
Under the aegis of the Press I interviewed professors and students, artists, musicians, dancers, actors and actresses and casting directors, atheists and feminists, creators and restaurateurs and young dreamers of all sorts. The delightful Arts and Entertainment section flooded me in culture: exhibits, theater, dance, music, movies, restaurants and books to review. Writing about their latest albums, Joan Armatrading and Richard Thompson and Joe Jackson entered my repertoire. Had Lunch with Elisabeth Shue, was flown to Burbank Studios for junkets, got complimentary tickets to Broadway plays and interviewed rocks stars like Huey Lewis. Utter cherry in the cake.
My first front page in October 1984 was on a serious issue, nuclear power plants. Though I disliked polítics, I learned to open up to subjects of importance – voting, faculty diversity, the salvadorean conflict, and abortion, – which turned out to be a very helpful skill. The paper published an investigative article about the food service, and a two-part piece on foreign students. The Stale Mess was my first attempt at parody. I wrote editorials on education, friendship, old age, fanaticism, religion, the oscars, violence and on Mexico, my native country.
I received praise and criticism (as it should be).
The State Press was a paying job and absolute fun!
My greatest reward was continued contact with people of all nationalities, colors and beliefs, Usonians (as Frank Lloyd Wright would call people from the United States), Native Americans, Asians, Indians and Arabs. But the true best of the Press were the colleagues, the ardent fire-in-the-belly friends who fought torrid battles over ideas that were important to us.
Our generation was part of the shift. As editors graduated they were replaced with more conservative temperaments. Certain themes are avoided and others dropped. Headlines outrage, asserting “Career-oriented women commit social suicide.” The Press now offers safe haven for strident attacks on women, minority groups, gays and liberal professors. ASU is the birthplace of Accuracy in Academia – which finger-pointed one of my favorite professors of political science because he had a bust of Karl Marx on his desk. AIA spawns Accuracy in Media, both of which later become national organizations.
I belonged to the Janis-Joplin-loving, freedom-waving, deep thinking, left-wing liberal camp. I saw my friends at the Press get fired for their opposition to oficial views. They created the alternative “Campus Weekly.” I survived the purge because I was considered to be in an innocuous section. Our editors did not yet know that art is by far the most subversive tool a society has to enable change. A few months before graduation in May 1985, I became the last fired renegade. Campus Weekly lasted less than a year, and brought 15-minute glory to a few hearts in the mid-eighties.
The State Press in print version. The new generations might not miss it, for they never had it. For me, the power of the yellow-mustard colored boxes all over campus, and the daily grind – very few student papers published on an almost daily basis – was an excellent basis for a happy and interesting 18-year career as a journalist. That I eventually shifted to healing was a gift of fortune, as the industry shifted beyond our imagination (and you know this because this is the last print edition).
The State Press was my first job, my school in action. It is the place that contains many of the mistakes and the first successes that merited eventual entrance to bigger and more challenging places. I am forever grateful for the skills learned there that remain with me until today.
Jessica Kreimerman Lew