The Promethean, UW-Superior’s student newspaper, turns 100

Throughout the past century the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s student newspaper has seen changes and challenges. Despite funding cuts, scandals and a period of general distrust on campus, The Promethean has stood the test of time.

“Quite the tradition of the newspaper to be going strong after 100 years of serving the students and the campus of UW-Superior,” said Tom Hansen, senior journalism lecturer at UWS and adviser to The Promethean. “A century of coverage is outstanding. Very proud to carry on that tradition today.”

First issue of The Peptomist, predecessor to The Promethean. Image via University of Superior-Wisconsin Archives.

The paper was launched in 1920 as The Peptomist. It was organized by the Iota Delta Chi fraternity as a service to the school and was completely student run, funded by advertising and its 3-cent cover price. Issues were printed every two weeks.

In the premiere issue, Prof. Arthur D. S. Gillette called the paper an “educational democracy” and that “[t]ime will prove, I trust, that ‘The Peptomist’ stands for this intelligent type of democracy.”

Editors of the Promethean, circa 1963. Image via University of Wisconsin Collection.

The paper continued under the name The Peptomist until 1974, when it was changed to The Promethean.

From 2008 to 2016, the publication was renamed The Stinger. It began as a tabloid newspaper and later put its emphasis online for more timely reporting, while publishing a glossy magazine at the end of each term. The Promethean name returned in 2016, when it was converted back into a newspaper.

Throughout these changes, the paper has endured its share of hard times, some of which threatened its existence.

In 1999 the university dismissed the paper’s adviser at the time, John Marder, amid accusations of sexual harassment, hostility in the workplace, and misuse of funds. Marder’s employment at UWS was terminated in 2001; related court actions continued into 2007.

Another scandal ensued in April 2016, when a satirical April Fool’s issue bearing the name The Pessimist was criticized for its off-color and anti-Semitic content. The situation led to the Dean of Students Office opening an investigation into the paper.

Some criticize the tone past writers and editors used in the newspaper, claiming it created distrust between professors and the students who ran it.

Controversial cuts to academic programs at UWS in 2017 included elimination of the journalism major and minor, though journalism courses are still taught there.

When Michael Michelizzi became editor-in-chief at The Promethean in 2018 he had a lot of work ahead of him. After the university cut the journalism program, he was the only student worker left. He knew paper was in danger.

“I set an original goal to help the paper make it to 100 years, and here we are,” he said. “I’d love to see it continue on long after me, and I hope I can set the paper on the right path to get there.”

Michelizzi began rebuilding the paper’s reputation. He worked hard to restore trust between staff, raise awareness of the paper on campus, report as many stories as possible, bring diversity to the staff, and recruit more students.

Since then, he’s been joined by Kayless Chalmers, layout editor; Jean Germano, office manager and chief photographer; Rachel Prost, webmaster; Spencer Hartley, social media manager; Liam Strong, A&E reporter; Alexa Henderson, reporter; Haruka Hamanaka, guest contributor; Elle Kolquist, reporter and copy editor; Jackson Wrazidlo, business and reporting; and Rachel Hanson, photographer.

UW-Superior student Holly Anderson reads a recent copy of The Promethean.

Last Friday a special 100th anniversary issue of The Promethean highlighted its history and changes through the years. The staff plans to release future issues looking back on its past in commemoration of the paper’s 100th year.

Chalmers shared that she recently interviewed Associate Dean of Students Tammy Fanning for an article. Given that the faculty and staff were once distrustful of the paper, Chalmers said this was a huge milestone and university administration is learning to support and trust the current newspaper staff.

In addition to changing people’s perspectives, they’ve also been working hard to modernize the paper by expanding its online presence. The paper now has an updated website and social media platforms.

Tom Hansen has been adviser for the past three years and is proud of the work the current student staff has done for the paper, as well as how successful the paper has been for so long. His students have attended college journalism conferences where they have the opportunity for professional development, and are now partnering with Superior High School through a program called “Catlin Connection,” where Michelizzi has been helping high school students learn about journalism and reporting skills.

Hanson has high hopes The Promethean will continue on for another hundred years.

“I won’t be around to see it but very, very proud we got to 100 years and I hope someday they can have a 200th year celebration,” he said.

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