Moving Forward from Volume 60, Number 21

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Speaking Volumes

When newspapers put out an edition, two numbers are kept alongside the date of publication for historic timekeeping. The first, volume, signifies how many years the publication has been in print. The second, number, indicates how many issues that specific volume published. Well, for the past year The Wharton Journal has been printed as Volume 60, Number 21 – which makes no sense. Unserious? Perhaps. But we clinged to Vol 60, No 21 as a proud symbol. Imperfect prose, MBA-level grammar, and quirky typos defined The Wharton Journal this past year. And that’s alright because we kept to the true spirit of The Journal—serving as a platform for the student body.

 

“Volume 60” indicates that The Journal is onto its sixtieth year. So that would put the first edition at 1955. Yet that is not the case, and MBAs are great at screwing up math (see Wikipedia: 2007-2008, The Financial Crisis of). Looking into The Journal archives, the earliest edition in existence is Volume 3 published in 1969, so that would imply a start date circa 1966.

 

So what changed within The Journal since 1966… or 1969… or whenever the true start date was? Not much. Format-wise, The Journal looked classier, giving off the appearance of a professional publication. But don’t be fooled by the aesthetics, the tone and style remained remarkably consistent over the past half century.

 

The paper used to be published on Mondays, but is now put out on Tuesdays in order to give us a proper weekend. The length was a maximum of 32 pages of newsprint and is now eight. But the number of articles remained the same. In fact, the main difference between then and now is that back in the day, the paper benefited from the heavy placement of ads, specifically several from investment banks and consulting firms which no longer exist, and the publication of an events calendar that is no longer needed due to something called the Internet.

 

Keeping Traditions Alive

The heritage of The Journal goes further back than the 1960s. The spirit of The Journal is probably owed to the very founder of this university and famous printer himself, Benjamin Franklin. His Pennsylvanian Gazette recorded the day-to-day lives of Philadelphians from the important to the trivial. The Gazette was practically a precursor to The Journal with its spirit of independence, and role as a platform for stories, letter, stark opinions, comedy, and gossip.

 

Over the years, The Journal has picked up that tradition—and by that, I mean it’s produced gossip for pretty much forever. In the 80s, we had the “TalkTalk” blind item column. The 90s recorded zany quotes from professors, and during the aughts, the paper kept Whartonites up-to-date via the “First Year Information” cohort gossip columns  and named absurd quotes from students. Now, we have the unnamed Overheard quotes of present.

 

Over-exposed? Yeah, a version of that has existed for years, too. Printing photos proved trickier in the days before digital cameras, but The Journal of the 80’s still produced their version of racy photos that documented Wharton’s freewheeling culture.

 

Every year there are multiple articles about the Quantico leadership venture, the Wharton Warthogs, and soccer scoring big in Austin. Also predictably present in The Journal: the promotion and recap of the greatest parties at Wharton. Spring Gala (aka Prom) has been and still is big. MBA students have and will continue to strut their sexy legs during Walnut Walk. Latin Fiesta is no longer with us, but fortunately we have Studio 54.

 

MBAs Always Be Complaining

Do you know what else doesn’t change at Wharton? Wharton MBA students love complaining. Is it because we’re narcissistic and spoiled, not realizing the extremely fortunate position we are all in? Or is it because we love Wharton and thus demand and seek out the best?

 

In the past, The Journal published all letters to the editors and counter articles from students who complained, and every year students complained about something. Back in the day, Wharton students freaked out about the creation of the Executive MBA program, believing that WEMBA would keep the institution from focusing on MBAs. One WGA slate even made opposing WEMBA its whole platform (1974).

 

Other complaints: Disappointment with the Dean (1986). Freaking about rankings, blaming the administration for focusing too much on undergrads, doctoral students, and executive education instead of us, editorializing “The Administration has never, within memory, formally solicited the opinion of the MBA students about anything.” (1973). Questioning the herd mentality (1981). Getting frustrated with the WGA (1981). Getting angry at the WGA for not knowing where all the money goes (1993). Coming to terms on how to live with negative cash flows during Wharton (1981). Telling undergrads to chill (2004). Complaining that Pub would always run out of pizza (1993). Complaining that Pub had the wrong pizza (2003) Advocating for greater drink choices in Pub (also 1993, side note: one of the greatest accomplishments in this newspaper’s history is influencing Pub to start serving liquor, 2015).

 

The Rise and Fall of the Paper

So how many people read The Journal? We turn to two data sources. First, a self deprecating Aprils Fools ad which put the readership at 8 based on the number of editors for the paper (1983) – a compelling estimate. The other data is from the number of printed issues picked up averaging roughly 600 each week during the past couple years. Those numbers may have been higher in older times as older volumes contained word and number games and people needed a distraction in class during the antideluvian era before mobile phones.

 

Looking at the work going into producing the weekly paper that is read by a range of eight to five hundred readers, The Journal has experienced a sad decline. While Dance Studio went from 30 to 40 to 70 to 350 student performers over the yeas, The Journal went from 40 to 20 to 12 to 4 students. But no matter the size of the staff or the year of publication, The Journal is consistently searching for writers and staff. Other volumes shamelessly tried to shame students into writing warning the weekly newspaper will become biweekly like the “unworthy Booth” if students did not put out (1986). But just like the inadequate levels of pizza at Pub, somehow The Journal has managed to survive.

 

The Journal produced some of Wharton’s famous alumni. In fact it is a machine and has the correlation for level of famousness one achieves after graduating. We count an impressive total of two famous alumni who worked for the Journal. First is our own Jeff Klein, though one can certainly argue against his famousness. His greatest contributions being his super serious games, unscramble “whartno” for example, and an article appropriately titled “Half a Page of Newsprint,” containing his meandering thoughts. Second is the biggest finance hotshot and dear graduation speaker Ruth Porat. She played it safe as writer, authoring six articles on business leaders who spoke on campus. She also served as an associate editor. All we know is subscription pricing increased by 33% when she became an associate editor so she clearly possessed financial acumen early on. And yes, people used to pay to read The Journal!

 

TLDR;

Flipping through the archive editions, Volume 60 maintained the heritage of The Journal unintentionally. During our Tuesday meetings at Bonners, nothing would get done; jokes were told and ideas thrown around, at best.  Yet that vibe echoed the same Journal from the previous five decades.

 

When looking through these old editions, we more than once thought: “wow, we’re not original” as everything seemed to repeat. Undergrads—besides studying—have been carrying layout duties for the firm for years. Past editors spent their Fridays finalizing the edition and ordering food in their hot office at Huntsman. We spent our time at Bonners with beers, insufficient hot wings, and the greatest bartender in Philadelphia history – Walter. Nothing really has changed. And it’s oddly reassuring

 

Apathy exists and will continue to exist. As a former Journal ad proclaimed, if every student wrote one article, there would be enough material for two and a half years. But the paper will go on scraping by as usual. Reading the Journal or writing for it. Picking up a copy to read during class or to cover your hair during a rainstorm. The Journal has and will exist amongst apathy. This expression of the student body maintained itself with the same unserious yet self-reflective character for 60 volumes. I know it will for 61, imperfectly yet honestly.

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