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Earlier this month, a group of City College alumni visited our campus to talk about their experiences working on The Paper “back in the day.” Albert De Leon, Jerry Mondesire, Charles Powell, Greg Holder, and Jeff Morgan covered events, wrote about issues, shot photographs and edited articles during the turbulent 70s. Here, journalism student Jalesa Tucker discusses their homecoming:


Left to right: Jeff Morgan, Greg Holder, Charles Powell, Jerry Mondesire and Albert De Leon with adjunct professor Janus Adams.


Some of the original members of The Paper stopped by Shepard Hall on April 16 to talk to current students about the significance and legacy of CCNY’s only campus publication run by students of color. City College in the late 60s – early 70s was a very different place, wrestling with race, politics, social justice and other issues of the day.  Working at The Paper offered refuge. “We didn’t feel like we belonged here but The Paper was a place that created our belonging and camaraderie,” said Charles Powell, who is now a lawyer. “The fellowship and the friendship and the commitment to each other was what we felt was necessary for our own survival.”

The publication began as a supplement to Tech News in 1970. “Tech News was the paper that was run by the architecture engineering students that were on the north side; of course the African-American students were on the south side,” recalled Jerry Mondesire, now a Philadelphia newspaper publisher. “We never came up here. There was hostility on campus toward African Americans and non-white.”

By joining forces with staff members of Utambuzi, a newsletter for Black students, their advisor the late Louis Reyes Rivera was successfully able to establish a black student voice within Tech News.

“Louis had the idea to go after the Tech News,” said Mondesire. “I had started Utambuzi but that didn’t have the campus distribution that we wanted. So Louie said let’s take that and meld it into Tech News.”

With a staff of eager journalists and a desire to have the issues they cared about heard, members of The Paper went on to break some of the biggest stories of the day. In 1970, The Paper broke the story of the student takeover of the CCNY campus in protest against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. Student journalist David Friedlander wrote the Attica prison uprising in 1970. several weeks before the New York Times. 

These days, Mondesire, Powell, Albert De Leon, Greg Holder, and Jeff Morgan still look back fondly on the early days of The Paper as the start of their respective careers and a lifelong friendship. “Being handed The Paper felt like we had literally been handed lemons with which we made some beautiful rich sweet lemonade every week,” said Powell. “We savored that to the point that all these years later we still get chills when we mention that word or the saying from Langston Hughes and all the rest.“






The Paper — Past & Present

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 2.26.41 PMThe Paper has a long, colorful and respected legacy. It was first created in the late 60s by a group of African-American students at City College. Back issues of the publication are currently being digitized for research, thanks to the support and energy of some of these original contributors.

First called “Tech News,” The Paper was born in a very turbulent period of the country, featuring the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam and anti-war demonstrations, and fights for student rights–at City College, CUNY and all over the country.

With a period so rich in social upheaval, The Paper sought to report issues not covered in traditional college newspapers (though some of that was done), or indeed the mainstream press. News coverage ranged from community issues to national and international news, the arts (there was a movie and theatre critic, and a poet-in-residence).

The Paper produced some amazing journalism and was able to “break” several news stories before the mainstream press. In 1971, David Friedlander broke the true story of the uprising at the Attica prison several weeks before the New York Times. Similarly, The Paper broke the story of the 1970 student takeover of the CCNY campus to protest the US invasion of Cambodia. Arlette Hecht wrote a story on the Rockefeller drug laws, an article released simultaneously with a published article in the New York Times and NY Daily News (quite a feat for a college weekly publication).

The Paper also published in depth articles, such as a seminal piece on drugs and their flow into the US. This was important at that time (as it is now) because of the heroin epidemic plaguing Harlem and other black communities.

Right now we need contributors, so please reach out to thepaper@ccny.cuny.edu if you’d like to write, edit, take photographs or help design the publication. Or stop by our office on the first floor of the NAC 1/118.

In the meantime, our very small current staff stands on the shoulders of the alumni giants of the past. Our students hold tight to this Langston Hughes quote, which ran on the banner of The Paper: 

“So we stand here

On the edge of hell

In Harlem

And look out on the world

And wonder

What we’re gonna do

In the face

Of what we remember”

CCNY Grad Sues Bad Boy

Rashida Salaam (pictured) joins the ranks of students who think unpaid internships = volunteer slavery

Rashida Salaam, CCNY intern who minored in journalism

Last summer, Rashida Salaam, a former unpaid intern at Bad Boy Entertainment, sued the company, accusing P Diddy and his staff of violating minimum wage laws. She says she from January to May 2012 she had to answer telephones, get lunch and coffee for paid employees, make deliveries, gift-wrap presents and decorate the office during holidays–not exactly interesting or skill-building tasks.

Salaam, a recent CCNY graduate, joins increasing numbers of unpaid interns who claim that working for free equals exploitation. Earlier this year, a judge in New York ruled in favor of several unpaid interns who sued the producers of the movie “Black Swan” for violating federal labor laws. (The company is appealing.) This fall, Conde Nast suspended its internship program after students sued W and the New Yorker magazines.

Unpaid internships can provide a much needed foot in the door, especially for kids who don’t have connections or relatives who can walk them into companies like Conde Nast and Universal Music Group, the parent company of Bad Boy. On the other hand, unpaid internships actually means paying to work, since students have to shell out tuition money for the credits they earn as interns.

Salaam says she has no animosity against Bad Boy. “I was taken advantage of as far as wages go,” she told the Daily News. “I was naive.”

Numbers: Not Just for Geeks

You know the saying show don’t tell, and it applies to journalism. As the rise of big data continues, so does the need for people who can understand it. But it’s more than just crunching the numbers: These days, good journalists also know how to create interesting and interactive visuals–charts, graphs, maps and tables–to tell a story.

Data visualization is one of the fastest growing skills that media employers look for. If you can bring statistics alive, you’ll find yourself much more employable. Think about Nate Silver. His data-driven take on the 2012 election in the FiveThirtyEight blog on nytimes.com, elevated him to superstar status. He was wooed away from the Times by ESPN to be the sports network’s in-house smartest guy in the room. His blog on sports calculus will launch early next year.

You don’t have to be a total numbers geek to understand data viz. Start with the basics, like google charts or he free app infogr.am. Here’s a super-simple graphic that tells the story of the shift in racial demographics at CCNY between 2003 and 2012. (Note the dramatic increase in Hispanic women!)

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 10.50.40 AMThe best journalistic data visualization does much more. Click here for the Guardian’s exhaustive statistical look at the 2012 Olympics. And here’s a cool map that measures and compares health, wealth, education and political leanings in America, state by state, county by county.

Try fooling around with data yourself. Today, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, released a comprehensive database of intercollegiate athletic and academic spending stats for NCAA division I schools. The goal is to compare trends in spending on core academic activities with spending on athletics. You can look at the data and experiment with user-friendly tools to create charts and graphs. Click here to sample it.

The J School Alternative

BYfbiZxIUAAO2TlInterested in continuing on to graduate school to study journalism? Many of our most successful undergrads move onto to the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. It’s a three-semester program that teaches multimedia reporting, TV, radio, writing, data visualization and many, many other topics. The state of the art facility is located in midtown Manhattan.

To discuss the J School experience, CCNY grad Mikhael Simmonds and fashion blogger Sierra Leone Starks–who will graduate in December–visited CCNY on November 7. To learn more, click here. 

Hip Hop Journalist Visits CCNY

img_3459Rajul Punjabi, a journalist who writes for the Village Voice, Huffington Post and other publications, visited a CCNY Introduction to Journalism class on October 1 to talk about her life and career. The 28-year-old professor at Long Island University in Brooklyn, shared lots of career tips. She stressed the importance of interning at media companies and discussed her own internship at Vibe. She reminded the students “you gotta be hungry.” At the end of the day, she said, love what you do. Punjabi shared the words of her father: “If your vocation is your vacation you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”