Panelists discuss the legacy of The Paper
An Early History
Francee Covington started a SEEK Student newspaper that lasted only one or two issues. It was called “The Paper,” believe it or not.
Around the same time, Jerry Mondesire established and edited Utambuzi (a newsletter for Black students)
In addition, Paul Simms, who was a staff member of the Tech News in 1968, began a series of articles that addressed problems in the Harlem community, focusing on social and health care issues. One early article featured an interview with Louis Farrakhan, who ultimately became the leader of the Nation of Islam. In time, Simms worked his way up from a staff reporter to News Editor, Managing Editor and ultimately Editor-in-Chief (over a period of two years), and recruited Jane Tillman Irving onto staff along the way.
In September, after the 1969 takeover, Louis Reyes Rivera joined Tech News and they immediately started planning on how best to develop a black student voice within the Tech News.
Between September 1969 and December 1969, Simms and Rivera recruited students who were interested in helping to develop a black student voice: Rex Lindsey, Tom McDonald, Arlette Hecht, Maxine Alexander, Dorothy Randall, Chris Newton, Jaime Rivera, Thomas Bell, Francee Covington, and Joudon Ford joined as reporter with Eric White and Ray Frost joining as staff photographers. By December, the new recruits were in a clear majority, “interracial” and radical.
The goal of the “new” Tech News was to develop a staff of writers, photographers and business people who would know how to run every aspect of a newspaper, and to be prepared for a life in journalism.
From January through the end of the Spring, the newspaper increased its numbers: members of the Utambuzi publication – Jerry Mondesire, Charles Powell and Greg Holder joined the staff of Tech News, along with Eli Dorsey, Ray Nero, Bill Robinson, Sheryl Bernier, Desira Benjamin, and a whole bunch of others, helped to establish a majority of Black student journalists on Tech News.
In 1970, Paul Simms added a Langston Hughes quotation as the new logo to the Tech News banner:
So we stand here
On the edge of hell
And look out on the world
What we’re gonna do
In the face
Of what we remember
Meanwhile, Powell, Mondesire, Andre Austin, Gerald Taylor, and Lenny Burg started planning for the Alabama Project, while Simms, Maxine Alexander, and James Fleshman laid the foundation for what became the CCNY-based Black Science Students Organization. Eventually, they helped secure the entry of well over 250 Black pre-medical students into medical school.
By then, both of the Feaster brothers, Duane Watts and David Friedlander were on staff as writers and Jeff Morgan as a staff photographer.
Thus, at the end of the fall 1970 semester, the focus and direction of the newspaper had clearly been transformed.
Alabama Project – 1970
In October 1970, as part of the Alabama Project, Tech News put out a supplement called “The Paper,” which was used in Alabama, as well as in New York. The Alabama Project was organized by roughly 400 students who donated two weeks of free labor as part of the National Democratic Party of Alabama’s campaign that year. The net result of this effort was that for the first time in that state’s history, black (or Negro as we were then known) candidates won 19 counties in which the County Sheriff, the County Judge, and the County Clerk were now positions held by African-Americans, thus reflecting the actual demographics within each of the respective counties
In short, the staff of Tech News actually helped to finish what the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) started in Loundes County, Alabama, circa 1966-68 (see Turé [Stokely Carmichael] and Charles Hamilton, “Black Power”).
Shortly after the Alabama Project, the name of the newspaper was changed to “Tech News (aka The Paper).” In December 1970, the title was reversed: The Paper (aka Tech News).
The name change was challenged. James Small and Bill Robinson, as part of their roles in the Student Senate, had the task of investigating whether or not the newspaper had broken any laws or college policies by changing the name. The Student Senate found that the change was legitimate.
In the spring of 1971, all references to Tech News ceased: The Paper was officially born.
During this period, in addition to the carryover of many staff from the 1970-71 school year, Bob Collazo, Bob Knight, Marianita Lopez, Dennis Mack, Ted Fleming, Gwen Dixon, Angelita Reyes, Al De Leon and others had become permanent fixtures on the staff. By then, there were no less than 50 writers and photographers on staff.
In the fall of 1971, Al De Leon and Joudon Ford assumed leadership as co-Editorial Directors for The Paper. In January 1972, De Leon became sole editor. Staff included Vicky Hunter, Faviola Felix, Greg Holder (managing editor), Ayad Mohamed, Diane Kearny, Tylie Waters, Diane Anderson, Ann Doris, Cynthia Valentine-Stephens, Warren Doris, Dennis Mack, Steve Holmes, Gwen New, in addition to new photographers like Thomas Holmes.
What did The Paper Publish?
The Paper was born in a very turbulent period of the country, featuring the Civil Rights movement, Viet Nam and anti-war demonstrations, and fights for student rights.
With a period so rich in social upheaval, The Paper sought to report issues not covered in traditional college newspapers (though some of that was done), or indeed the mainstream press. News coverage ranged from community issues to national and international news, the arts (there were a movie and theatre critic, and a poet-in-residence).
The Paper was published weekly, so there was a constant watch for “good” stories, and to round up advertising to keep the presses rolling. (Incidentally, The Paper used the old “typeset” printing system).
The Paper is proud that it was able to “break” several news stories before the mainstream press. In 1971, David Friedlander broke the true story of the uprising at the Attica prison several weeks before the New York Times. Similarly, The Paper broke the story of the 1970 student takeover of the CCNY campus to protest the US invasion of Cambodia. Arlette Hecht wrote a story on the Rockefeller drug laws, an article released simultaneously with a published article in the New York Times and NY Daily News (quite a feat for a college weekly publication).
The Paper also published in depth articles, such as a seminal piece on drugs and their flow into the US. This was important at that time (as it is now) because of the heroin epidemic plaguing Harlem and other black communities. Ray Frost did the graphics for this article.
1973 – 1975
The momentum continued for the next several years with the addition of new writers. The Paper was an important place for budding journalists, with several staffers, Jerry Mondesire, A. Victoria Hunter, Jeff Morgan, and Steven Holmes among others, going on to successful careers in print and broadcast journalism.
At the 1973 CCNY commencement, Louis Reyes Rivera, one of the founders of The Paper, was awarded school’s 125th Anniversary Medal, “for recognized efforts to train a whole new cadre of student journalists.” The rest is history.
2007 – The Paper Reunion
On June 9, 2007 The Paper held an afternoon reunion attended by 35-40 past (mostly) and present staff members Saturday, June 9th (CCNY – North Academic Center, 3rd Floor-Amsterdam Room) at the CCNY – North Academic Center, 3rd Floor-Amsterdam Room.
2007 – Present
Since the reunion we have lost Sekou Sundiata (2007), David Friedlander, Louis Rivera, and Robert Knight (2014), key contributors to the success of The Paper.
Many back issues of The Paper from 1970-1973 have been contributed to Harlem’s Schomburg Library. Also, the City College Library through its archives section has microfiche copies of The Paper and has a project to digitize issues from 1969-1981, which would make them available to the public for research purposes.