Flames of the Torch

Putting together a newspaper at 2 a.m. with only a light table, tape and an exacto knife is not ideal. Yet for nearly 80 years that is how The Torch was put together. However, new printing technology and computer software has made way for a more streamlined layout process and thus has opened the door for change.

After years with the same masthead and basic layout, The Torch finally gave itself a facelift. In the weeks since the introduction of the “new” Torch many people have asked what sparked the makeover. One faculty member went so far as to ask if The Torch had received mentoring from some major publication, as the changes were so drastic.

To understand why the aesthetic changes were made, it is first important that the history of The Torch be explained. First printed in 1925, The Torch has been a staple of life at St. John’s for 82 years. The original slogan, “for the students, by the students,” has remained true for the duration of publication.

For the first 60 years, The Torch was under University control before gaining autonomy in the 1980s. The paper’s name has also not remained the same for all 82 years. Initially called “The St. John’s Torch,” the name was officially changed to “The Torch” in 1942. What did remain the same was the inclusion of “torch” in the name, chosen because of the words “a bright and shining light” written in Greek on the St. John’s seal.

In addition to a name change, the masthead has changed in the past as well. Once upon a time, the masthead was merely antique text atop the page. For a great number of years after that, the masthead included flames atop the ‘T’ in Torch, which became the identifying mark of the publication for generations of students.

In addition to the masthead change, the layout of the paper was also revamped. The use of new printing technology, used by The Torch for only the past two years, allowed for the use of color. Along with this came better photo quality, the ability to use more dynamic graphics and the desire to write better stories to go along with the improved images.

The decision to change the identifying characteristics did not come easily. For more than a year, editors debated and fought over which of the many masthead options to choose. Three managing boards were involved in the process and it took three years to come to a conclusion as to what should be done. But in the end, the editors did what they felt was best for the publication.

As Winston Churchill once said, “There is nothing wrong with change if it is in the right direction.” For The Torch, we strongly believe the changes made put us on the right path. The changes made this year are just the beginning. The Torch is, literally, going to be passed on and it will be up to future generations of editors to rise to the challenge and continue the progress.