Getting the scoop since 1866: a brief history of the Misc

“All Vassar College once a week / Reads the MISC the truth to seek. It’s got the news, it’s got the style / But twice a week it’s got its trials.

           Chorus: (with feeling) Miscellany, Miscellany / You get no sleep with the Miscellany News.

           Wednesday comes that day of glee / The pa- per’s out for all to see; Our work’s well done, the paper’s read / Now all we do is head for bed… [CHORUS]

            If this you feel is the life for you / There’s plenty of things that you can do. Be an editory — handle news or features — Come down to see us and we will greetchas!”

One might think that the editors of one of the nation’s oldest collegiate weeklies would have a strong enough allegiance to tradition and style that their signature song would not include made-up words. Yet, as hinted at by its 1953 anthem, The Miscellany News has never failed to push boundaries.

The weekly iteration of the Misc, as it’s currently known, first appeared in February 1914 as a supplement to the Miscellany Monthly student literary magazine. For a few issues, they remained closely tied, with the editors of each publication working together. In the 10th issue, however, the Weekly made the bold move of publishing a review of the Monthly, signifying a step towards independence from its predecessor.

Following the split, the Misc initially took an outward-looking eye towards content, working to cover national and international affairs, but it then returned to focusing chiefly on campus life during and after World War I.

Despite this shift, the editors continued to experiment with the Misc’s image by renaming sections of the paper, such as changing “Letters to the Editor” to “The Growlery” and altering the humor section’s title to “Varieties” or “Campus Chat.”

During the 1930s and leading up to World War II, the Misc settled on a consistent method of reporting, firmed up guidelines for staffing and began once more to explore global news. Mock letters to drafted men in a 1940 issue saw a wide readership when they were republished in the Princetonian and the Harvard Crimson. In the 1960s, the Misc experienced a stylistic revitalization, beginning with the 1963 addition of paid classified ads.

Then, in 1965, a change of printers allowed for a totally new look, including a more casual layout, longer pages, more pictures, the addition of cartoons and full columns allocated to humor and satire. Moreover, the Misc moved toward a role as the campus watchdog, seeking out debate with college and student institutions (Vassar Encyclopedia, “The Vassar Miscellany News to 1969”).

In 1969, the paper underwent another metamorphosis, changing its official title from The Miscellany News to The Misc. This coincided with a shift towards less provocative reporting, and students reacted so poorly that the paper was forced to suspend publication for the semester in November 1970.

The Miscellany News has changed over time when it comes to aspects like font—and even name!— but having learned from its predecessors, the Misc continues to strive for journalistic excellence. / Courtesy of Talya Phelps and The Miscellany News

The next spring, The Miscellany News returned with its former title and no mention of the debacle. In 1972, the Misc’s acquisition of a darkroom allowed it to publish more photos, and the layout moved again in a less formal direction, with a large entertainment section and the inclusion of Doonesbury comics.

This time, students reacted enthusiastically, and recruitment among first-years soared. Another windfall came in 1984, when a $6,000 fundraising campaign allowed the Misc to purchase a Rainbow 100A computer for easier editing and typesetting. In 1996, the paper officially entered the digital age with the advent of its website at http:/misc.vassar.edu (Vassar Encyclopedia, “The Modern Vassar Miscellany News”).

The Misc has never been a stranger to controversy, and the ups and downs of its relationships with the College and its students have shaped the paper’s evolution. In 1943, the Misc’s activist tones were quashed after a meeting with the Joint Committee of Faculty and Students, which concerned recent editorials about the loss of a scholarship; after that, the paper chose to experiment with visual style rather than touchy topics (“The Vassar Miscellany News to 1969”). In 1982, the Misc received complaints from the Gay People’s Alliance (GPA) and the Student Afro-American Society (SAS) about articles of an “ignorant, racist, sexist, and homophobic nature.”

The tension came to a head when Misc staffers invaded a SAS meeting, despite the group’s request that the press be kept out. SAS and GPA subsequently called for the resignation of the editors, but the matter was settled with a reprimand by the Students’ Association.

Then, in 1994, the Misc published an advertisement for a Holocaust-denying organization, sparking outrage and leading to a revision of the paper’s ad policy (“The Modern Vassar Miscellany News”).

Today’s Miscellany News may be removed from the very first issue by more than 150 years, two world wars, five different titles and 10 font changes to the nameplate, but picking up the paper or flipping through the online archives still fosters a sense of connection to Vassar journalists of yore.

By the time my class returns to Vassar for our 50th reunion, perhaps The Miscellany News will be projected in hologram form into the College Center or will be exclusively available on Google Glass—but I, for one, will still be hanging onto the stack of Miscs beneath my bed.

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