Happy Birthday! Vermont Student Newspaper Celebrates 130 Years of Cynical Awesomeness

Editors start with the name. On a special front page draped atop its latest issue, the current leadership of The Vermont Cynic reminds its University of Vermont readers why the student newspaper sports such an offbeat moniker.

As a huge, bold pull-quote grabbed from the Cynic’s first issue — circa 1883 — explains in wonderfully antiquated English, “Criticism has been passed upon the name distinguishing our paper. … If the name on our cover means anything, it means that we shall honestly speak the convictions of our mind; it means our objects are utilitarian; it means that all things conflicting with the interests we represent, we shall constantly and consistently combat.”

That combativeness, constancy and consistency has truly distinguished the paper — the Cynic remains “the oldest continuously published non-daily college newspaper in the country.” It’s now 130 years old, to be exact.

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In honor of that milestone, the paper devotes some space in its current issue to Cynic-based reflections. One of my favorites: a quick-hit glimpse at a sampling of advertisements that have appeared on its pages over the years. The highlights: quarter-page spots for pipe tobacco, “the most complete portable typewriter on the market” and a pre-Adderall “all natural memory enhancer” drug.

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One other interesting element: a description of the somewhat scattershot editorial style of the 1883 first issue. According to current Cynic reporter Carter Williams, “As soon as news on one event started to unfold, the writer dives into another topic, which in some cases is unrelated to the topic described by the article’s header. The bylines of many writers resembled hieroglyphics. Instead of their full names, some writers chose to use their initials, while others used pen names.”

Bottom line, as a separate staff editorial sporting no bylines declares in the current issue, “We at the Cynic look forward to another 130 years and are excited to see the changes in journalism. We believe that the future of the Cynic is a bright one.”

Then, on the next page, in an act of cognitive dissonance that literally made my jaw drop, there is a column recounting a student’s sex shop visit with his family headlined “Dildos, Testicle Cuffs and Granny.

A snippet: “My cousin and I looked about the wig and costume area, pretending that dildos weren’t pointing at us from the walls. … Like the discomfort I felt seeing my grandmother tinker with testicle cuffs, so society grapples with sex: wanting to be accepting, but annoyingly timid.”

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Happy Birthday, Cynic!

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