It is not known exactly when the first student newspaper was published by the predecessors of UNC Asheville. In his speech to the Class of 1929, Roy Taylor mentioned a school paper, so clearly publication started within two years of the creation of Buncombe County Junior College.
The earliest edition in the University Archives is a photocopy of the May 1930 edition of The Highlander, which was, “Published by the students of Buncombe County Junior College [and] founded by the Class of ’29.” This edition is identified as Vol. II No. 8, suggesting a monthly publication, with Vol 1 No. 1 appearing sometime during the 1928/29 academic year, which would align with Taylor’s remarks.
The first original newspaper in the Archives is The Highlander dated May 1935, which is confusingly identified as Vol. 1 No.2. Since, Vol.1 nos. 3 and 4 are also in the Archives, and are respectively dated March 1935, and April 1935, the paper still seems to be a monthly publication, but the reason for reverting to Vol. 1, or even if a paper was published between 1930 and 1935, is not known.
The Archives have a further editions of The Highlander through to May 21, 1938, and from the volume and issue numbers, it seems likely the paper was published sporadically. These editions reveal the paper contained college news, letters to the editor, gossip, poems, and advertisements from local businesses.
Previous blogs have described how the 1940s were lean years for Asheville-Biltmore College, and lack of students and funding may explain why the next newspaper in the Archives is from October 17, 1947. This is Vol.1 No.1 of a newspaper, “published twice monthly by the Journalism class of Asheville-Biltmore College”. It was also a newspaper without a name, appearing under the banner of, ? Asheville-Biltmore ?, but included details of a contest to name the “school scandal sheet.”
There is no record who won the naming contest, but the newspaper was called The Campus Crier by November 1, 1947 when Vol. 1 No.2 was issued.
The Campus Crier continued through to the 1960s. The last edition in the Archives is Volume XV-R1 Number 2, dated November 1961, with the volume numbers suggesting the paper had been published regularly since 1947. Although in 1961 The Campus Crier was still being published by journalism students, it had seen numerous changes since 1947. These included both the size and quality of the paper, the number of pages, and the inclusion, or not, of photographs, perhaps all a reflection of the college’s financial wellbeing at any given time.
Throughout its run however, The Campus Crier was still internally focused with college news, editorials, and letters, supplemented by the local business advertisements.
Chronologically, the next newspaper in the Archives is Vol. 1 No.1 of The Ridgerunner, dated September 27, 1965. Again, it is unclear if this four year gap is due to missing copies, or because no paper was published.
Unlike The Campus Crier, The Ridgerunner was published by the student union, but initially it still followed the same college focused editorial style of its predecessor. However, the content soon expanded to include local and national news, record and movie reviews, and political commentary.
The last Ridgerunner in the Archives is dated February 2, 1979. Again it is unclear is this was the last issue or just the last one archived, but on February 28, 1979, Vol. 1 No. 1 of The Rag & Bone Shop was published.
This was much more of a literary paper than a newspaper, with early issues having an address c/o The Ridgerunner, as though, initially at least, it was meant to supplement, rather than replace, The Ridgerunner. By the fall of 1979, the content had become news than literary but, by 1982, it changed once again, becoming much more a glossy literary journal that was published monthly.
In addition to being unsure of its content, the publication also seemed unsure of its name, with “Shop” disappearing from, and then returning to, the title.
The Rag & Bone Shop ended in controversy. The April 1982 edition featured a drawing of a crucified Easter bunny on the front cover, leading to protests, including the burning and confiscation of the offending issue. The magazine staff claimed first amendment rights, and produced a further edition in May 1982, but with no one willing to be the next editor, The Rag and Bone Shop ceased publication.
It was replaced by Kaleidoscope, which was first published on September 9, 1982, and marked a return to the weekly news format of The Ridgerunner.
The focus was still campus news and events, supplemented by entertainment reviews and classified advertisements.
The editorial in the first issue explained the name “Kaleidoscope was chosen because it implies something that is constantly changing and showing many different views.” Production of the newspaper was open to any student who wished to participate and it was funded through student fees paid with tuition.
The final Kaleidoscope was Volume IV, Number XIV, dated April 1984. By then, non-campus news formed about half of the items, and there was much greater use of photographs.
However, Kaleidoscope did not disappear, but simply changed its name; on September 5, 1984, The Blue Banner Volume V, Number 1 was published, with the masthead proclaiming it was “formerly Kaleidoscope” and had been “Serving the Students of the University of North Carolina at Asheville since 1982.”
The newspaper gave several reasons for the name change. Students said kaleidoscope was “hard to spell,” faculty thought the name “artsy…unprofessional,” administrators wanted a name “that better reflected the campus,” and several Asheville businesses were called Kaleidoscope.
But why The Blue Banner?
Apparently because blue was “one of [the] school colors…and banner is a newspaper name that goes well with blue.”
Irrespective of the reason for the name, it still continues, making The Blue Banner the longest lasting running title of all student newspapers at UNC Asheville and its predecessors.
However, the name is about the only constant at the newspaper over the last thirty-four years. Page sizes and layouts have changed, and changed back, color images and type have replaced black and white, the paper is published online as well as print, and social issues have a much higher profile than they did in the 1980s.
Throughout its existence, the quality of journalism featured in The Blue Banner has been frequently recognized and praised. The most recent example being in February 2017, when the newspaper earned six awards at the N.C. College Media Association’s conference.
Colin Reeve, Special Collections
- The above is a brief summary of “official” student newspapers. “Unofficial” publications have included The Scholastic Screamer and the UNC-A Free Press, whilst publications such as The Paper and Bulldog Barker were published by university administration rather than the student body.
- Digitized copies of most archived newspapers through to 2015 are available online at DigitalNC
- The University Archives would like copies of editions of university newspapers that are not currently in the Archives. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a “missing” edition