Mat-Su Monitor history
The current contributors to the Mat-Su Monitor, Mat-Su College's student paper, wrote this history in spring 2022. This history draws from primary sources. We looked at old issues of the Monitor itself, plus newspaper clippings available in the library. We are aware that we may miss or misinterpret some details. If you have any information or corrections to contribute to this history, or you have old issues to donate, please contact us at email@example.com.
The first issue of the Mat-Su Monitor appeared in November 1978. Billed as the Mat-Su Monitor Newsletter, a "monthly newsletter [of the] Matanuska-Susitna Community College," it was printed on a typewriter and ran to seven pages.
In its first years the paper was the work of Forrest "Woody" Hayes, a psychology instructor and counselor. With occasional small contributions from coworkers, Woody shared updates on campus events, course offerings, university news, and programs and legislation impacting students. A later history of the Monitor characterized some of Woody's articles as "philosophical bits" (Menerey, 1995).
In the March 1980 issue of the Monitor, Woody called for student volunteers. At the same time, students voted to form the college's Student Government. It was perhaps only natural that this Student Government would take "over the writing, reproduction, & distribution of the MSCC Monitor (newsletter)" (Hayes, 1980).
The April 1980 seems to be the first with substantial contributions from students. One of these articles was a profile of Woody Hayes himself. The next issue came out in the August 1980 and kicked off a new school year. The Monitor now had a proper cover page and a list of student contributors -- two assistant editors and three technical assistants. The Monitor could rightly claim to be "printed monthly by the students of Mat-Su Community College."
With student contributions, the Monitor grew longer. For instance, December 1980 saw two issues, of which one ran to 17 pages of legal paper (the only issue to be printed on that unusual size).
In these early years, the Monitor lived up to its billing as a newsletter, albeit a very good one. Presumably, the Monitor was typewritten and mimeographed on campus. The content was high quality and abundant, but there was no greater objective than to entertain and inform other students.
But the history of the Monitor is one of oscillation between "newsletter" and proper newspaper. Changes were coming.
In the fall of 1984, Professor Elizabeth Fallon incorporated the newspaper into her class English 212 "Writing for Newspapers". At the time, a local paper covered the change, writing that
The paper has been an on-and-off college project for several years and Fallon hopes she can keep the paper in production. All the previous editions of the paper were mimeographed and this time the paper will be printed on newsprint. Another change in the tabloid will be the people who produce and run it.
"Before it was run by volunteers from the student government, and now it's a credit course," she noted. "Every semester there will be a one credit course in writing for newspapers."
Currently six Mat-Su Community College students are in Fallon's newspaper class. The group's first effort should "hit the streets" in October ("College newspaper gets 'A' grade", 1984).
The course responsible for the Monitor is described in the 1985-1987 Mat-Su College catalog:
English 112 is a learn-by-doing class. Since the students enrolled in Writing for Newspapers are responsible for producing the college newspaper (Mat-Su Monitor) once a month, instruction and practice is given in writing news and feature articles, interviewing, news photography, layout and design, and preparing copy for off-set printing.
Putting the Monitor under the direction of a credit course produced good results. Having more funds at hand also helped (Menerey, 1995). For the first time, the paper appeared on newsprint in an 11" x 17" format. The layout had a more professional style. Gone (mostly) were the hand-drawn graphics and handwritten text, replaced by high quality photographs and typed text. Thus, the October 1984 issue was the first to look like a proper newspaper.
The 1985-1986 academic year represented a peak in professional appearance. The October 1985 issue had a new masthead. The typography improved. From November 1985 on, the paper looked even better, with a completely professional design and much brighter and heavier paper. These issues were printed (and probably designed) by Alaska Media North Corp.
From Fall 1986 to Spring 1989, the Monitor returned to its "newsletter" origins, printing on letter paper on campus. But at least the Monitor embraced the era of computers. Instead of typewritten text and hand-drawn graphics, these issues appear to have be produced on a computer. The best testament to this is the rudimentary low-resolution clip art.
The Monitor was apparently defunct for the 1989-1990 school year. When it resumed publication in the 1990-1991 school year, it was under the title of Perspective. The only extant issue (April 1991) was printed on campus at the peculiar size of 7"x8.5".
After April 1991, there's no record of students putting out another issue until March 1993. At this time, Student Government president Mark Ewing revived the paper (Menerey, 1995). The original name of Monitor was kept, although a March 1993 issue billed itself as The New Mat-Su Monitor. That change didn't take. A change of name to simply MSC Monitor happened in the June 1995 issue. This change would last; every issue up to February 2009 (when the original name was reasserted) is titled either MSC Monitor or just Monitor.
From March 1993 to at least October 1998, the Monitor was a simple letter-sized affair, designed and printed at the college. A 1995 article noted gave some insight into how the paper was funded and produced at this time:
The Monitor is currently funded by student fees funneled through Student Government, as it was when Ewing resurrected it. However, Student Government does not RUN the paper and does not decide what it does or does not print. Because the paper uses the same office, computer and supplies many people are under the impression that it does.
We are fortunate to have found in the Monitor files a sticky-note from 1997. It tallies how many issues of the Monitor were distributed, and where. This gives us some idea of the Monitor's scope at this time. For this particular issue, there were 470 copies. Of these, 280 were distributed across campus, either in racks or in the mailboxes of faculty. 45 were mailed out. 100 were distributed in the community. The remaining 45 copies were filed or used for sundry purposes.
After October 1998, the Monitor disappeared. While at least one issue of a MSC Student Government Newsletter came out in the fall of 1999, it wasn't until February 2000 that the Monitor reappeared, still in 8.5"x11" form, this time with the triumphant headline "WE'RE BACK!"
From October 2000 to November 2001, the Monitor was printed in newspaper format by the Anchorage Daily News.
January 2002 saw another return to letter size and on-campus production. The front page article announces a "new semester, a new editor, and a new newspaper format" -- but most of all a change in direction. Linking to a Monitor website, the editor declared "at this point and time, the MSC Monitor will be primarily web based." Though a website had existed for at least a year, and one exists to this day, the Monitor seems to have never really made a full move online. Print issues -- most of which had a message saying the issue was also available online -- continued to come out regularly until at least December 2002.
A return to form
Come Fall 2003, there was no Monitor as such. The local Frontiersman stepped in to help students once again resurrect the paper:
During the fall semester of 2003 Anya Petersen-Frey, an adjunct professor at Mat-Su College who writes part time for the Frontiersman, in conjunction with Kari Sleight, publisher of the Frontiersman, and Frank Ameduri, then editor of the Frontiersman, approached Mat-Su College administrators about starting a partnership to create a student paper. Pete Praetorius, an English and Communication Professor at Mat-Su College, was tapped as a faculty advisor for the paper.
For the future success of our paper we need to make sure we have students educated in journalism and all facets of the newspaper," Kari Sleight said. "In addition, I believe very strongly in the newspaper business and the role we provide in a community; having the college have a voice of their own was a very strong motivator in the decision" (Shepler, 2005).
With the support of the Frontiersman, students and staff put out a 16 page paper called On Campus. This was inserted into the Frontiersman as a supplement. As with Perspective almost 15 years earlier, On Campus dropped the Monitor name. Even so, it was the campus's student paper; all content was written by students and staff. Students even did some of the layout work. But there was still a lot of work to be done by our partners at the Frontiersman:
Once the articles have been written the Frontiersman provides the Mat-Su Monitor Staff access to their facilities and their expertise. Students, with the help of Frontiersman staff, do the layout for the Monitor at the Frontiersman facilities; however, this is where our involvement ends. Currently the Frontiersman provides all of the ads for the Monitor as well as incurring all of the costs for printing the paper (Shepler, 2005).
The Spring 2004 issue of the Monitor marked a return to the Monitor name and a standalone format. Except for some initial stumbles -- the next two issues (Fall 2004 and Spring 2005) were four page inserts in the Frontiersman -- the Monitor has retained this standalone newspaper format right down to the present day. Over the next few years, the Monitor students learned how to run a paper on their own. Judging from appearances of some 2006 issues, all of the layout must've been done by students. Over the next few years, students took over funding the paper (with help from the Mat-Su College Student Government Council). As of this writing (April 2022), the Monitor is produced and funded entirely by contributors on the Mat-Su College campus. We rely on our longtime partners at the Frontiersman only for printing.
In 44 years, the Monitor has produced at least 180 issues. (That's what they have in the library). This has been possible because of the shared work of dozens of faculty advisors and students editors, plus hundreds of student contributors.
Our rich past is no guarantee of future success. We need you to step up and help as so many others have over the last 44 years! Send us your suggestions, your stories; come to our meetings; take on the many roles we have for students.
For information on getting involved in the Monitor, see the Mat-Su Monitor club page.
- College newspaper gets "A" grade. (1984, October 3). The Valley Press, 28.
- Hayes, W. (1980, December). An editorial: student government. MSCC Monitor, 2-3.
- Menerey, A. (1995, October 2). The way we were. MSC Monitor, 14.
- Shepler, D. (2005, Spring). Our ties with the Frontiersman. MSC Monitor, 1-2.