130 Years of The Opinator

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The first page of the first edition of The Opinator, published in September 1883. Photo: Samarth Desai ’16

By Samarth Desai ’16

“We present you to-day the first number of the Seminary Opinator,” reads the first words printed in the first edition of Wyoming Seminary’s school newspaper, published in September 1883. “We realize that always in the case of any new undertaking many prophecies are made respecting the result, and we doubt not that many have already prophesied a premature death for us, considering our inexperience in all such affairs, and the fact that one venture, somewhat similar, is said, in years past, to have come to a fatal termination. We intend to be contrary, and disappoint all such prophets.”

Over a century later, The Opinator continues to produce Seminary’s journalism and disappoint naysaying prophets. Founded in 1883 by a group of students looking for a medium to “interest and amuse” others, The Opinator is Wyoming Seminary’s oldest extracurricular institution and longest continuously-run organization. The 2013–2014 school year marks the 130th anniversary of the publication.

However, The Opinator today is distinct in form, style, and structure from the publication of the nineteenth century. While the original newspaper was meant to interest and amuse, today’s is meant to report. The early editions of The Opinator were literary-centric, including not only news about events on campus but also creative writing, short stories, and even jokes: “‘Just take a bottle of my medicine,’ said a quack doctor to a consumptive, ‘and you’ll never cough again.’ ‘Is it so fatal as that?’ gasped the patient.”

“Back then you wrote in The Opinator to show how good of a writer you were,” explained Mrs. Gail Smallwood, Associate Director of Communications at Wyoming Seminary, who was given access to a number of past editions of The Opinator from the historical archives for an article she is writing in the Wyoming Seminary Journal. Today The Opinator is solely a news-based organization and does not publish fiction. The newspaper’s creative writing niche has largely been undertaken by the Sem Literary Art Magazine, founded in 2012 and based on previous literary magazines.

While The Opinator had always been a print publication, it abandoned print in favor of online media in 2010. The last printed edition of The Opinator came in January 2010. However, as major newspapers undergo a digital transformation and are moving away from print, The Opinator has actually observed an opposite trend: student readers
hip has seemed to decline since the newspaper became an online-only publication. Starting from this Spring 2014, The Opinator plans to publish a print edition once every term. Although The Opinator of 1883 and The Opinator of 2014 are very different, the newspaper has now returned to the same place it started—in print, on paper.