Using the same technology as the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., staff at the Texas A&M University Libraries have begun the process of digitizing every edition of The Battalion to preserve them. “The Battalion is an excellent record of our university’s history,” said Brad Morse ’18, who served as the newspaper’s editor for the spring 2018 semester. “It allows us to look back and see how the paper has evolved, both from a content and design standpoint, as well as an observer.”
The decision to start the project was driven by the high number of requests the Libraries receive to view back issues of The Battalion. These requests come from academic researchers as well as members of the public looking for information about family and friends. However, the current condition of the newspapers is an issue. Having been created using inexpensive, acidic wood pulp, many copies are now fragile, torn or bound using outdated methods.
The project is a coordinated effort between Texas A&M University Archivist Greg Bailey and the Preservation and Digital Initiatives Units in the Libraries.
The Preservation Unit will preserve and conserve the newspapers before they are digitized. This will ensure that not only a complete digital record is created, but also that the physical newspapers will continue to be available to researchers who desire to use the native artifact. Another advantage of digitizing the collection is that this resource will now be available to an audience beyond the boundaries of campus.
“We are digitizing them not only for access, but also to take care of the physical collection in the process, making sure the physical newspapers are preserved in the most appropriate way for the collection and for the type of material they are made of,” said Julie Mosbo, director of preservation.
Most of the work of digitizing the more than 11,000 print issues in the collection has been completed by the Libraries’ own student workers. Approximately 4,000 issues of The Battalion are currently available online, while all digitized copies will be available soon.
“Hopefully people will come forward with issues of The Battalion that we don’t have in our collection so that we can digitize those as well,” said Bailey. “Ideally, we’d like to get the original copies for our holdings.”
From 1893 to 2018
The Battalion started production in 1893 as a monthly publication by the Stephen F. Austin and Calliopean Literary Societies until 1906, when publication was taken over by the Student Association. The Battalion is the longest-running student newspaper at Texas A&M, having been continuously published since 1893 except for a short period in 1918 during World War I.
The frequency of The Battalion has changed over the years. Students currently produce three issues per week during the fall and spring semesters with a circulation of 65,000 (one paper for every student). “Big changes occurred in 2018,” said Morse. “Due to budget constraints, our printing has gone down from five issues per week to three. We made it our priority this year to become a digital-first publication to cover more content and breaking news.”
The Battalion hasn’t been the only newspaper on campus. From 1947 to 1951, freshmen housed at the Annex (otherwise known as the Riverside, or RELLIS, campus) produced a newspaper called The Little Battalion. Another newspaper, The Daily Bulletin, began publication in 1916 by the college’s publicity department. From 1918 to 1919, it ran under the name Reveille before switching back to The Daily Bulletin in 1919 and ceasing publication in 1938.
After work on The Battalion is complete, other campus publications such as The Texas Collegiate (1876-1880), The College Journal (1889-1893), The Daily Bulletin/Reveille (1916-1938) and the Little Battalion (1947-1951) will also be preserved and digitized as part of this project.
Originally a small, monthly publication, The Battalion has evolved along with the university it serves. “These newspapers truly tell the story of the college,” explained Mosbo. “They have so much history in them.”
If you have any issues of The Battalion that you would like to donate to the collection, please contact Greg Bailey, email@example.com.
The Battalion’s staff has joined students nationwide to #SaveStudentNewsrooms from the financial pressures that are taking a toll on the rest of the industry. “Save Student Newsrooms is a campaign to raise awareness that student journalism matters,” said Brad Morse, Battalion editor. “We report on things that matter not only to the people of our campus, but also to the state and nation.”
The national campaign to raise awareness for student media began after the shutdown of the Southern Methodist University student newspaper, The Daily Campus, in May. The Daily Campus was one of the longest-running student newspapers in Texas.
Advocates for The Battalion have spoken up, including musician and former Battalion reporter, Lyle Lovett ’79. Lovett tweeted: “In my day there, the @TheBattOnline newsroom gave us @tamu journalism students a sense of community. It was a place we could learn from each other—the best classroom on campus.”
“The best way to learn how to be a journalist is to be a journalist,” added Morse. “The Battalion gives students practical experience. When students graduate and look for jobs, they have a portfolio of clips that showcases their skills.” Students also learn skills such as communication, leadership and time management.
“Being a part of The Battalion has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done at Texas A&M,” Morse said. “It gave me the opportunity to go out there and be in the middle of things.”
The Battalion gives students information and a voice. “Our mission is to create a more well-informed electorate by reporting the news as objectively and as unbiased as we can,” Morse added. “We are the outlet for news at Texas A&M University.”
With increased funding, The Battalion could print more content, have better equipment, pay reporters per story, create a mobile app or provide increased training for reporters.
Battalion reporters are writing the next chapter of Texas A&M history. If you wish to support the continued success of this vital part of campus life, please contact:
Matt Jennings ’95
Senior Director of Development
Texas A&M Foundation
(800) 392-3310 or (979) 845-7604