Grand Forks Central High School's student newspaper to mark centennial anniversary
‘The Centralian’ celebrates 100 years of ongoing publication
GRAND FORKS – Grand Forks Central High School’s student newspaper, “The Centralian,” will celebrate its 100th anniversary this month. The first edition was published May 23, 1923 – making it, most likely, the oldest high school student newspaper in the state.
Two copies from that first run remain in the school’s archive, said Matthew Berglund, who teaches journalism and English. He’s been the adviser to the paper for 17 years.
Luckily – and maybe surprisingly – the original editions remain in fairly good condition, Berglund said.
“(Having) two original copies in our possession almost feels like having a million-dollar Honus Wagner baseball card,” he said.
The journalism teacher is not sure the school has every issue of The Centralian, because there have been some inconsistency in publication schedules over time.
“Sometimes it’s been a bi-monthly, but it’s mostly been monthly. Plus, there’s been supplemental issues,” he said. “I would say we have almost every one.”
“We used to print (the newspaper) seven issues a year,” he said. “Now, we publish six online editions and print one at the end of the (school) year. The May edition is kind of a keepsake for seniors.”
In the past couple of weeks, about 20 journalism students, in ninth through 12th grade, have spent hours sorting stacks of past editions of The Centralian and organizing them chronologically and scanning the pages.
The students plan to publish an anniversary edition online May 23. The printed edition will be published May 30, Berglund said.
A glimpse of the past
The newspapers provide glimpses of the spectacular and the more common aspects of student life through the decades.
The banner headline of the Nov. 29, 2005, edition proudly declares “59-year title drought ends, reign begins,” after the school’s triumph as state Class AAA football champion, under the leadership of coach Mike Berg. The coach has since retired and lives in Grand Forks.
Hannah Hobbs, a senior at Grand Forks Central High School, said much of the content in past issues “is actually very close to what we do now. There’s dating advice – really bad dating advice – and a lot about sports and clubs they’re doing.”
The student journalists chronicled other events, such as President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Grand Forks about two months before he was assassinated in November 1963. Reporter Charles Dattelbaum and editor in-chief Mark Severson were dispatched to the UND Fieldhouse to hear the president’s address.
“They were not only fortunate enough to view the President,” The Centralian reported, “but also privileged to shake his hand.”
The photos that accompany that article are “haunting,” Berglund said, because images of the president riding in an open vehicle in Grand Forks almost mirror the scene of his assassination in Dallas.
Oldest school paper
Grand Forks Central is one of the oldest high schools in North Dakota, Berglund said. The original building opened in 1882, with members of the first graduating class – Emma Oldham and Mary Parsons – receiving diplomas in 1886. Their class originally had 10 members.
The first edition of The Centralian, produced by students 100 years ago, includes articles explaining “how and why they started the paper,” said Berglund, who’s been teaching at Central for 25 years.
One article describes how they named the paper and announced the winner of the naming contest, Kenneth Jacobi, a senior. Second- and third-place choices were “High Ways” and “Student Cry,” respectively.
Early editions of The Centralian not only recorded athletic competition results and other student activities, but also were a means for businesses to reach young customers. Ads touted the superior quality of menswear, jewelry, fountain pens and other school supplies, photographic film developing and printing, drycleaning services, sports equipment, motorcycles, bicycles and automobiles.
Reactions to bygone journalism
Reading some of the old newspapers, the journalism in The Centralian “is higher quality now,” said senior and co-editor Nolan Macki. “A lot of the stories (of yesteryear) are like filler.”
The articles published these days present “a broader range of topics, and there’s less repetition,” Macki said, noting that the “credibility” of the content has improved because fact-checking is easier and quicker.
In his journalism classes, Berglund said, “we talk a lot about the credibility of your sources; the importance of having several sources, and fact-checking.”
“I like to make sure my stuff can be fact-checked,” Macki said. “I think it was easier in the past to make an absentminded mistake.”
Also, given today’s technology, the tasks of putting the paper together “get done a lot faster,” he said.
Looking at issues from the 1940s and ‘50s, Macki said, “I feel like there was a lot of bias back then,” but acknowledged that, in the future, students may look askance at some of the writing of today.
Karlie Arthur, a junior, said that when she’s been perusing old editions, she sometimes spots the names of her relatives, “like a great uncle or grandfather.”
Generations in decades past were exposed to global threats. In the 1940s, in particular, The Centralian foreshadowed the looming crisis in Europe.
Hobbs noticed “small excerpts that a war might be starting,” she said. One article in particular stood out, because “two days later Germany invaded Poland.”
Hobbs was also interested to read about the controversy that swirled around renaming the school’s team names from the “Redskins” to the “Knights,” she said.
The newspaper back then “even had sponsorship by Coca-Cola,” she noted, and, “everything was cheaper.”
Samantha Mondry, a senior, noticed especially how fashion has evolved – and how styles are often recycled.
“I thought the fashion changes were really interesting, and how things are coming back,” Mondry said. “I could go to the store and find those things.”
Similar to practices of the past, each student has had the opportunity to pursue articles that interest them.
Arthur, who’s in her first year in the journalism class, writes “sports articles mostly – any sports,” she said, “and a lot about my job at a doggie daycare.”
Hobbs, who’s been on The Centralian staff since she was a sophomore, enjoys feature writing because it allows coverage of “very broad topics,” she said. “You can write about anything; you’re not restrained to one thing.”
Considering content from past issues, the Herald wondered, would The Centralian ever offer dating advice today?
“No,” Hobbs said, adding quickly, “The internet does that well enough – actually, worse enough.”