The Wittenberg Torch: Student newspaper returns to campus, publishes monthly

Ava Agoranos came to Wittenberg University as a biology major but changed her mind after her first journalism class.

Now the 21-year-old senior is not only an English major but also the editor-in-chief of the recently relaunched student newspaper at Wittenberg University.

“I think student journalism is super important, so I didn’t want to see it die off,” she says.

The Wittenberg Torch published its first edition of what is to be a regular set of articles at the beginning of January, at the start of Wittenberg’s new semester.

Agoranos, who is from Palatine, Ill., near Chicago, is proud to be part of the small group that is getting the newspaper off the ground once again. She hopes her fellow students “develop a new appreciation for journalism and writing” while also using The Torch to spread their own message and be heard.

“We are such a small campus,” Agoranos says. “Our voice can be powerful if we have an outlet.”

The Torch is aiming to publish online monthly as it works to build a full staff of between 20 and 30 students, says R.E. Johnson, Wittenberg’s multi-media adviser. She hopes the newspaper will publish weekly by this fall.

The paper last published regularly just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she says. There have been articles published periodically since that time. Although the newspaper was publishing a print edition before the pandemic, it likely will now remain online-only, Johnson says.

The Torch’s online masthead proclaims that it has offered student journalism since 1873. More recently, however, there hasn’t been a structure to continually offer the newspaper for students who wanted to write for it, she says.

“My job is to ensure there is continuity,” Johnson says.

Johnson, who grew up in southeastern Clark County, joined Wittenberg in November after work that included being a TV critic, columnist, and freelance writer.

“I never really left journalism,” she says.

Her role at the university means advising not only the newspaper staff but also the student-led radio station, WUSO. 

R. E. Johnson is the Multi-Media Advisor for The Torch.The radio station likely will relaunch in the fall, Johnson says. The station had been popular with students, but the combination of the pandemic and a flood where the station had been located on campus slowed its momentum.

“It kind of brought everything to a screeching halt,” she says.

In the meantime, between 5 and 10 students are currently writing for The Torch. Many of them are majoring in English, but Johnson says that one of the most active writers is one who studies biology. She hopes writers come from a variety of majors.

Johnson wants The Torch to provide pre-professional opportunities for the students who work on it. Agoranos herself plans to work in the journalism field after graduation.

Many of the writers already are providing their own photography for their articles, Johnson says, and she hopes that students also will be interested in other roles with the newspaper, such as social media, and advertising.

“Obviously we want reporters and editorial writers, but we’re also going to need the management staff,” she says.

Johnson says she aims for the newspaper to be a stable outlet for students to be published throughout their years at Wittenberg. What’s more, she emphasizes the importance of having a student-driven source of information – for students, for faculty and staff, and for the community in general.

The skills that student journalists learn will serve them wherever their career paths lead. Journalists not only search out new information but also are “always looking for a new discovery,” she says.

“I think that pursuit of something will help anybody, no matter what the field is,” Johnson says.

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Read more articles by Diane Erwin.

Diane Erwin is a freelance writer and former reporter for the Springfield News-Sun. A graduate of Ohio State University, her articles have appeared in a number of publications in Springfield and Dayton. In addition to her journalism background, she has worked in marketing and written copy for businesses throughout the country. In her spare time, she likes to read, dream about Schuler’s donuts, and travel near and far with her husband and two children.