Observer memoir by Greg Conroy

In 1988, when I joined the SIUE Office of University News Service, then-director Sam Smith was so proud of the fact that he had just installed some Apple IIe computers with 256K (that’s K, not M) of memory. The floppy discs were indeed floppy and the monitor screen sported green lettering.

But Sam was pleased as punch because he remembered a time when news releases were typed on a typewriter, when mistakes were corrected by typing the new sentence on a separate sheet of paper and literally cut with a scissors, smeared with rubber cement and then pasted over the offending error.

And, then they were mimeographed and sent by postal mail to newspapers in the region. Later, photocopiers streamlined that part of the process. No widespread e-mail system existed on campus in 1988. So, you can see that the coming of computers—as primitive as we now realize they were—brought joy to the office of News Service at that time.

In addition to news releases, the office offered the Observer, named by the late Pete Simpson as a tribute to the pre-Civil War newspaper published in Alton by Elijah P. Lovejoy, the legendary abolitionist. I’m not sure why SIUE’s humble 8-1/2 x 11-inch, card stock newsletter was named for such a heroic publication, but Pete admired Lovejoy and that was that.

The Observer was printed and published by printers off campus with the help of SIUE’s Ruth Armes—in what was known then as Graphics and Publications—producing the typesetting on galleys, which were then laid out by the graphics department. It was a lengthy process but Ruth and the graphics department were up to the task. Also, the cost to us for the typesetting and the layout were high.

Then I heard about the Macintosh, a computer with a tiny screen and a printer that would print out typesetter quality galleys. I convinced Sam to purchase a Mac and a laser printer for a total of about $5,000 (you could probably buy two or three new Macs for that now). I thought he was going to faint. I took over the typesetting and the layout with help from SIUE’s graphic artist Ed Stan and we put out a respectable newsletter. Thank goodness the cost of that computer and printer was recaptured in the first year.

Eventually, I recommended we go to newsprint (thus saving even more money), switch to a newspaper-style layout and have it published by the Edwardsville Intelligencer. We put out a tab-size paper every other Tuesday. That began in January 1989. We continued to publish the newsprint version for nearly 10 years.

With the coming of CougarNet, we began publishing the Observer on-line beginning in 1999. We called it “The O” and the price was right. Gone were the days of newsprint, printer’s ink and doing the mailing of some 2,500 of those papers every two weeks with the help of several student workers.

Since 2004, we’ve published the SIUE News on-line in a linear format; we no longer tried to emulate a newspaper layout.

So now comes the entire Observer available on line. Thanks for the creation of this new digital collection go to Library & Information Services Dean Regina McBride and her staff, especially Dr. Steve Kerber, head of the Louisa H. Bowen University Archives & Special Collections at Lovejoy Library.

It seems the publication has come full circle or at least exists somewhat in both worlds—print and electronic forms. I’m happy to see the newsletter and the newspapers have been preserved digitally. Seeing these now brings back some great memories. As for Pete, I’m not sure he would be so thrilled, wherever he is.

Return to Observer Newsletter digital collection