By Abigail Yarrison ‘24, Immaculatan Editor-in-Chief
How did Immaculata students get their news before the Dome Digest campus e-newsletter and Instagram? How did students hear about upcoming events or the latest hot topic? The answer arrived in 1928 as The College Journal, Immaculata’s campus newspaper.
From the start, the paper was, and still is, written, designed and edited by Immaculata students of all different disciplines. The first editions were published biweekly at the subscription price of $1 per year. The College Journal was the go-to source for school news as well as gossip. There were classic columns, including Athletics, News of the Clubs, Music Notes and Alumnae News, and there were creative columns such as Poet’s Corner, We’ve Often Wondered and Student Opinions. The gossip column, Of Spice and Men, began appearing in October 1936 and ran for over 15 years. Written by the mysterious “Snoop,” the column was likely a hit for the ladies of Immaculata.
In 1934, The College Journal changed its name to The Immaculatan, and by the ’70s, the small, light-hearted newspaper was a primary informant for campus community news. During the later decades, the staff shifted away from gossip and became more journalistic, focusing on columns dedicated to human interest, entertainment, world news and sports stories. In 2006, the paper’s mission statement was born: “dedicated to spreading cultural diversity and acknowledging writers from across the disciplines.”
“I felt like we were making a big difference by providing an outlet for students to cover the topics that were interesting to them and participate in the discourse that was important to the readers,” said Jane Kollmer ’05, who was an editor of The Immaculatan before she became its faculty advisor from 2006 to 2009.
In 2006, the paper was publishing twice a semester and printing 400-500 papers each edition. “I dispersed them around campus or mailed them out to our subscription list. The IHM Sisters in Camilla were also avid readers,” said Sara Pletcher-Bluhm ’08, the editor-in-chief from 2006 to 2008.
Today The Immaculatan looks a bit different. “We had partly gone digital in roughly 2017 to try to remain a little more contemporaneous with coverage since we were only publishing four to five times a year,” said Sean Flannery, Ph.D., the advisor for the newspaper since 2010 and chair of the arts, languages and letters department. “Then we went full time because of the pandemic and our publishing company shutting down.”
While some readers prefer the printed version, there are advantages to publishing online. Having a website saves printing and mailing costs and reduces paper waste. Students can gain experience writing for the web and can easily share URLs to their articles in digital portfolios or LinkedIn profiles. Publishing articles online also allows for the incorporation of images, videos and links, which makes The Immaculatan interactive for readers. The online presence broadens the circulation beyond what a printed version could, with The Immaculatan website receiving an average of 282 views every month.
The current editorial team plans to revitalize The Immaculatan by bringing back traditional printed papers while continuing to publish online. Alongside bringing quality journalism to the school, being on the staff of The Immaculatan is an educational experience. “I learned a lot about graphic design, just by working on the layout,” observed Kollmer.
Working on the paper taught Bluhm how to lead projects and people and how to manage a budget. It played a part in leading her to her current career as a public information officer.
Stephanie Marinelli ’25, the current managing editor of the newspaper, says, “The Immaculatan has provided me with an opportunity for self-expression. The newspaper allows me to feel seen and heard.”
“I really encourage the current student body to support the newspaper, because it has deep roots in the school’s history,” says Kollmer. “Whether or not it is online or printed on paper, it is important to have an independent source of news for the students and by the students.”
Memories of The Immaculatan 1967-1969
After receiving the winter issue of the magazine, alumna Judith Heim O’Dell wrote to share memories of her time as a staff member and editor of The Immaculatan.
The recent article in Immaculata Magazine about the Immaculatan brought back memories of my years on the staff and as co-editor in 1968-1969. The paper was published every other Friday during the school year. The staff submitted articles typed in column format. Before the deadline, we huddled in our office in the basement of Marian. We pasted the articles and photos into a layout and sent it to a printer in Lancaster. When the proof was ready, two or three of us drove to Lancaster to proof the paper before it went to press. Some issues were four pages, and some were six. The writing and proofreading skills I learned have served me well.
The paper in those years was filled with serious articles on the speakers who came to campus, national politics, students volunteering at charitable organizations and gaining representation on faculty committees, the dean’s list, student council activities, movie reviews, club and faculty news and sports results. There were letters to the editor commenting on or disagreeing with articles. Campus controversy about the library and student council elections were reported.
While many college campuses held Vietnam War protests, Immaculata students were agitating to wear pants on campus. The Immaculatan was behind this campaign through photographs and editorials. Going to class in a nightgown under a trench coat was okay, but pants were not permitted. The battle was partially won in my senior year when pants were allowed in the dining room. I believe the dress code changed the next school year.
Sister Marian William was the faculty moderator of the paper and mostly allowed us to publish what we thought was important. I do not recall ever having to pull an article, but she made occasional requests to “tone it down a bit.” This was the case on my editorial seeking to abolish the practice of dorm room inspections by the sister who lived on the halls. “Pink slips” were left in messy rooms. Several times, I was called to Sister Mary of Lourdes’ office about my editorials. It was usually a friendly discussion where we agreed to disagree. I had tremendous respect and love for both of these women.
My most incredible experience as editor was in the winter of 1968 when the University of Pennsylvania invited Robert Kennedy to speak. It was a few weeks before he announced his run for President. All the local college newspaper editors had front-row seats at the Palestra. The auditorium was packed, and the atmosphere was electric as Mr. Kennedy spoke. He must have been told who we were because he shook hands with each of us and asked us to “put in a good word” for him, which we did in the next issue of the Immaculatan.
Judy Heim O’Dell 1970