50@50: The history of FIU’s student newspapers

To celebrate the university’s 50th anniversary, FIU News is sharing 50 moments in FIU’s history as part of our “50@50″ seriesIn the photo gallery below, view different front pages of various versions of FIU’s student newspapers from its earliest forms to the present day. Images appear courtesy of the FIU Special Collections & University Archives and FIU Student Media. 

By Joel Delgado ’12 MS ’17 

For most of FIU’s history, the university had a student newspaper where the university community could keep up with all the current events taking place. But for 18 months during the late 1980s, the newsstands around campus were empty.

In April 1990, the hiatus ended when The Beacon was established as an independent weekly publication thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Student Government Association and a computer donated by President Modesto A. Maidique.

FIU Director of Media Relations Maydel Santana served as the managing editor of The Beacon when its first issue was released on April 17, 1990. She was heavily involved in the planning and preparation for the launch, which began months before.

“As a young journalism student, you’re in love with the idea of telling stories,” Santana says. “Back then we were involved in every step of the process, from coming up with story ideas, writing the story and laying it out on the page to then seeing your story in print. We felt like we were creating our own little piece of history on campus.”

Twenty-five years after publishing its first issue, The Beacon has become the longest-running student newspaper at FIU, providing the university community with news and editorials on a wide variety of topics and issues.

Prior to the The Beacon, FIU had a number of student newspapers dating back to within a year of the university’s opening in 1972. The Action was the first of those publications before it was renamed The Good Times in 1974.

The name changes continued during the late 1970s and 1980s; there was  The International, The New International and The Sunblazer, the name the student newspaper held until the hiatus occurred.

The Beacon office at MMC is located on the second floor of the Graham Center.

The Beacon office at MMC is located on the second floor of the Graham Center.

The one thing that never changed throughout these transitions was the paper’s commitment to being a force for free student expression, writing about issues and topics relevant to students, faculty and staff.

The Beacon and its predecessors have informed students about everything from student government election results and athletics coverage to film reviews and editorials.

Alfred Soto, an advisor for FIU Student Media and former editor-in-chief of The Beacon, works with the publication’s student reporters almost every day to help them find and write stories that matter to students.

“We tell our writers to look in the mirror, to look at their own lives as students. Everyone has to pay for classes, everyone has to eat and everyone has to park. Those are things that every student has in common, so our stories should reflect those common experiences,” Soto says. “What is working well at the university? What should we highlight? What isn’t working? What needs improvement? These are the questions we want them to ask and answer.”

The Beacon also provides aspiring journalists a chance to gain valuable hands-on experience working a beat or running a newsroom as an editor while in college, with many of its writers and editors going on to work for publications and news entities around the world.

“Our students are among the hardest working people on campus. Each issue is the product of countless hours of reporting, editing and re-editing,” Soto says. “It’s not perfect. It’s not the kind of polished journalism you see in The Miami Herald or Sun Sentinel. They are learning how to be journalists, so there will be mistakes. But they learn from them. That’s one of the great things about journalism: there’s always the next issue.”

Today, The Beacon is under the umbrella of FIU Student Media (FIUSM), which includes the student-run radio station WRGP (formerly Radiate FM) and FIUSM.com. This semester, for the first time in FIU student media history, the director on FIUSM.com, the general manager of WRGP and the editor-in-chief of The Beacon are all women.

With offices at MMC and BBC, The Beacon publishes three times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) during the Fall and Spring semesters and once a week during Summer B. Copies of the newspaper can be picked up at both campuses as well as the Engineering Center and FIU at I-75.