70 years of The State Hornet cataloged in Sac State exhibit


Mitchel Bobo - The State Hornet

Exhibit highlights include more recent events, such as campus reactions to Stephon Clark’s death , left, and a 1998 issue celebrating the volleyball team’s Big Sky Conference championship, middle.

The Donald & Beverly Gerth Special Collections & University Archives is currently displaying a retrospective on The State Hornet’s coverage, dating back 70 years.

The 70-year anniversary of Sacramento State’s student newspaper also signals the publication’s final semester of a printed release, as it will become solely focused on its digital platform.

Roughly 30 pieces were assembled following a $25,000 grant from the California Revealed Project, and are currently being displayed in room 1502, near the southern entrance of the  University Library. Some date back as far as 1949.

Julie Thomas works for Sac State as an instructor and electronic records archivist. She cites members of California Revealed and Sac State’s University Archive team as being integral to the digitization process.

“I have been working with the CA Revealed team on The State Hornet project, as well as other Sac State digitization projects over the past 6 years,” Thomas wrote in an email.

Mitchel Bobo – The State Hornet
Displays in the Gerth Special Collections and University Archive. These prints cover topics like 9/11 and the inclusion of female dorms on the Sacramento State campus.

A separate email from the California Revealed Project’s Theresa Berger and Pamela Vadakan, described the process as involving technologies both modern and outdated.

“This particular collection of The Hornet also includes issues on microfiche, which is a type of film containing microphotographs of the pages. Microfiche requires a special machine to access the images on the film,” Berger said.

“Unfortunately, these microfiche readers are becoming obsolete.”

The team is currently aiming for full accessibility to the digitized content by 2020, which will be available on the California Revealed website, the California Digital Newspaper Collection, as well as Sac State’s own archive site.

According to their website, the California Revealed Project has worked alongside over 200 universities, libraries and museums in preserving documents of historical significance.

Exhibit highlights range from speaking engagements by the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Hillary Clinton, to day-after coverage of 9/11.

One piece depicts a lawsuit from the Church of Scientology against The State Hornet.

The lawsuit was a response to a series of stories written by staffer Pat Badovinac, who had at one point sought to join their ranks.

Brian Blomster, Sac State’s current director of news and communications was at the helm of The Hornet as Editor-in-chief during the controversy.

“I’d been editor for I don’t know… two weeks? Three weeks? It was just like I stepped in and they handed me this big problem to deal with,” Blomster said.

Mitchel Bobo – The State Hornet
These exhibits include some of the most historically significant events that have occurred both on and off Sacramento State’s campus, like a speech given by Hillary Clinton, right, and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., second from left.

The paper ultimately rebuffed an agreement between the church and Associated Students Inc., to publish one of three articles penned by the church.

“That would shatter your credibility as a publication. But, also it was a prior restraint,” Blomster said. “It was something we argued was unconstitutional. I think we were right. It pissed us off.”

Just as telling as the stories are some of the advertisements.

From a 1960 issue featuring Camel cigarettes to an early ’90s advertisement featuring a leotard-clad duo promoting memberships to L.A. Workout – the paper has served as a constant reminder of the times.

Buff’s Barbershop began taking out ad space in The Hornet in the late ’60s. It’s an investment that owner Dave Hendrickson, remembers fondly to this day.

“It was amazing. It was at a time when people’s hair styles were changing, and we put an ad in and got a lot of business. I still have a lot of friends from that period,” Hendrickson said.

“It was very successful. I think five or six dollars an ad. I got some professors and a lot of students.”

The Hornet and its audience have changed dramatically, with one often reflecting the other in a symbiotic relationship that has catalogued the evolution of Sac State and its community throughout the years.

More recent entries include coverage of the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA and reporting on-campus reactions to the death of Stephon Clark.

Communications professor Rebecca Gardner was a member of The Hornet, and recalls receiving an award for rookie sports reporter of the year for the 1995 to 1996 academic year. It was Sac State’s first year in the Big Sky Conference.

“I don’t even know how institutionalized that was, but I did receive a certificate and I do include it in my resume,” Gardner said. “I really appreciated that part of my life.”

Gardner still enjoys picking up her physical copy of the paper, but acknowledges the ease of access that comes with the online edition.

“I think a lot of people will see things or read things on the internet, and that’s drastically different. I don’t even think The Hornet had an online presence when I wrote for them at all,” Gardner said.

Sac State journalism professor Stu VanAirsdale served as a Hornet staffer and editor in the early 2000s, and has been the advisor to the publication for four years.

He cites the shift towards the digital medium as the best means of reaching modern audiences, while simultaneously gearing students towards the demands of the modern news cycle.

“When I started here as a student in 2002, we had weekly print cycles, and we barely had a website at StateHornet.com,” VanAirsdale said. “Facebook and the iPhone were still three years away.”  

Mitchel Bobo – The State Hornet
Prints highlighting significant events in both Sacramento State and State Hornet history, from a Martin Luther King Jr. speaking engagement, left, to a lawsuit brought against the paper by the Church of Scientology, second from left.

He states that the exclusively digital format will also free up time and budget that would typically be devoted to the printed release.

“Now most of our audience comes to The State Hornet on their phones, through social media,” VanAirsdale said. “So as an adviser, I try to teach students to work for an audience that isn’t going to wait a week for news. They demand it now, at a high level of quality.”

Much of the collection was curated by VanAirsdale and Hornet staffer Jose Fabian.

The two worked in conjunction with Sac State’s official print shop, University Print, and the Special Collections and University Archive staff in bringing the collection together.

A free reception will held on April 4 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m with snacks and refreshments included as the collection extends its hours for touring.

The exhibit will be on display through May 3, culminating with the 70th Anniversary and Alumni Reunion on May 4 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Harper Alumni Center, with a special presentation slated for 8 p.m. Tickets start at $35.

Until then, students can glimpse history through the lens of The Hornet’s long-standing coverage.