Evolution of Dixie Sun News ongoing

From left: 2004 Dixie Sun edition, 1916 Dixie Owl edition and 1980 Dixie Sun edition. The Dixie Sun News has gone through several transitions of names and styles. Photo courtesy of Special Collections.

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By: Emily Mildenhall

It’s the end of an era for Dixie Sun News as the last printed publication will come out on Dec. 2; however, it’s certainly not the first transition the newspaper has undergone.

When it was established in 1916, the newspaper’s original title was Dixie Owl and it was formatted like a magazine with a large emphasis on narratives and poetry.

In 1922, the newspaper made another transition to Dixie News, and for every other year between 1930-1935, the publication served as the yearbook with its “Dixie News Commencement Issue.”

The Dixie News later changed its name to Dixie Journalists Chatter in 1939, and its layout read more like a newspaper column with illustrations and cartoons, rather than photos taken with a camera. In 1943, it became “Dixie Junior College Newspaper” and maintained its layout of hand-drawn headers and three columns of text.

Finally, the newspaper was assigned the name the Dixie Sun in 1951.

For every moniker change, there was a change of design, format and layout for the newspaper. Section headers went from pencil designs to computer graphics; the black ink expanded into full-color photos; even the size of the newspaper varied greatly from year to year.

Dean of Students Del Beatty said he used to read the Dixie Sun when he was enrolled in Dixie College in 1988.

Beatty said: “I read the Dixie Sun as a student, and I still do today. I love it when they highlight the successes of our students — it’s newsworthy and noteworthy, and it lets us know there’s a lot of really great things going on.”

Beatty also said the design of the newspaper has changed since he was a student.

“I still have some old Dixie Sun articles in my scrapbooks, and it used to open more like a book rather than a newspaper,” Beatty said. “The newspaper print format definitely made it more legitimized, and there are more national news stories in it now. In 1988, the school was so much smaller — only a few thousand students — so the stories used to be more local.”

“Newspapers are dying, but news isn’t dying; it’s just taking a new shape.”

Katie McKellar, a government watchdog reporter for Deseret News

Katie McKellar, a government watchdog reporter for Deseret News, got her start in journalism by working for the Dixie Sun News as a staff writer, features editor and photo editor from 2012-2014. McKellar said she’s sad the newspaper is ending its print format, but it’s reflective of a constantly changing industry.

McKellar said: “Newspapers are dying, but news isn’t dying; it’s just taking a new shape. The future is going in a new digital, multimedia direction, and the Dixie Sun taught me how to use correct story structure, write leads, lower thirds for broadcast … It’s crucial for students to get that experience so they can get internships out of college.”

McKellar said working for the Dixie Sun News also helped her develop confidence and people skills.

“I just wanted to have a career where I could put my writing skills to use, but I was shy and you have to talk to people,” McKellar said. “You have to not be afraid to engage in conversations — it’s part of the job.”

Past staff members of the Dixie Sun News often stay in journalism or public relations, but the skills developed from multimedia journalism are transferable to a variety of career areas.

Rhiannon Bent, the current Dixie Sun News adviser, has advised the newspaper since August of 2004 and has seen it go through various changes over the years, particularly regarding multimedia, including a minor adjustment to the name.

“When I first got here, the newspaper was just called ‘Dixie Sun,’” Bent said. “As we were trying to evolve into a more multimedia organization, I had the idea to create this umbrella organization, Dixie Sun News, and within it would be the Dixie Sun newspaper, our website, our broadcast, but the editor-in-chief misunderstood me and just started calling the paper ‘Dixie Sun News,’ and it’s been that way ever since.”

While the newspaper name changes once every few decades, general rebranding efforts are launched every few years to tweak the visual design of the newspaper to give it a fresh, new look.

“Every new editor-in-chief has new ideas for the paper, but we try to maintain brand recognition while seeing what works and what doesn’t,” Bent said.

In terms of more holistic changes, new technology and social media have made Dixie Sun News distribution more complicated and challenging. Bent said she even remembers hearing about Twitter for the first time at a student journalism conference in 2009 and incorporating it into the curriculum.

“We started incorporating Instagram, Snapchat for a while, and even TikTok is in the mix now,” Bent said. “It’s all becoming a tangled web of content, and the audience for each application is different.”

In the age of fake news, it’s harder for journalists more now than ever before, but as long as there are stories that need to be reported, the Dixie Sun News will continue to persevere and adapt with the times.