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March 28, 2013

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“I think that [trend] is changing,” she said. “I think with social media, Twitter especially, people are starting to become engaged. There has been a trend since that time, but I also think and hope it’s shifting back.”

As for its own digital initiatives, Lazar said The Echo launched a new website this year featuring a plug-in that allows staffers to see how many and which articles are being read the most and where readers are being referred from.

“About half of our readership comes from Twitter, Facebook and search engines,” Lazar said, who added that the paper has ramped up its focus on social media this year. But she also laments the slow demise of print.

“Fewer people are picking up print newspapers and that is sad,” she said. “It’s a huge part of what we do, but I think it’s just something we’re going to have to embrace going forward toward the future.”

In the 1960s and ’70s, when student publications were viewed as more radical and gave birth to progressive movements such as the New Left and the Students for Democratic Society, students organized protest on campus against the Vietnam War, civil rights issues and secrecy and mistrust of the government.

From my perspective as a UTC student and staff writer for The Echo, those years were the golden age of the student press. Student journalists then break from the norm, giving birth to the counterculture that can be still be seen in remnants of factions of campus newspapers at universities across the nation.

John McMillian’s “Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America,” explained how this happened. “Along with the new gravitas in rock and roll, the rising tide of campus-based activism, and the outré counterculture style, underground newspapers began contributing mightily to the New Left’s sense that it stood at the heart of a new society,” McMillian wrote.

Taking their cue from a new crop of alternative newsweeklies such as the Los Angeles Free Press and others—which, in turn, gave birth to modern alt-weeklies like The Pulse—McMillian writes that the atmosphere was “fertile” for new, younger and anti-establishment newspapers. That was evident in much of the United States at the time and Chattanooga was no exception.

Campus activism still exists at UTC and continues to be reported in the pages of The Echo. Last year, the Kony 2012 video sparked an uprising on campus that spread to downtown Chattanooga and, more recently, the Stand For Freedom—dealing with literally taking a stand against human trafficking—and activism for gay rights have appeared in the newspaper.

Tom Griscom, now a communications consultant, was the editor of The Echo from 1969 to 1970, beginning a long journalism career that culminated with his becoming the editor of the Chattanooga Free Press in the 1990s. In 1999, the Free Press and The Chattanooga Times merged and Griscom became the editor of the combined papers and remained in that job until he stepped down in 2010.

Griscom compared the decades by the traditional roles of newspapers in his early years as a student and then as a professional journalist to the modern age of new media and the decling days of the printed newspaper.

“Nothing else existed,” Griscom  said, speaking of the pre-Internet age. “Print was the format.”

The Echo, he said, was the primary communication tool between students and the administration, adding that the UTC’s communications department also did not exist, but that the newspaper was always student-run, funded by student fees, as it remains today.

As an ROTC cadet throughout his collegiate newspaper career and the Vietnam era, Griscom said the newspaper tested boundaries during a time of national protest that eventually made its way to Chattanooga.

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