At 70, State Hornet is showing its (digital) age


Jonathan Morales

“It is interesting and significant that students of our college have gone ahead on their own to develop a student newspaper.”


The first edition of the
State Hornet (left), published in 1949, and an edition from spring 2019.

Thus began the first issue of the State Hornet, published Jan. 14, 1949, on colorful 8.5-by-11 inch paper. In the seven decades since then, the Hornet has played an important role on campus, serving as a voice for students, documenting Sacramento State’s history, and training future journalists and communications professionals.

“The State Hornet has chronicled the story of Sacramento State in a way that nobody else can,” says faculty advisor Stu VanAirsdale, a former Hornet staffer. “It’s Sac State through the eyes of its students.”

Several events took place this spring to commemorate the 70th anniversary. A special exhibit showcasing archived editions and front pages documenting major University and world events ran in the University Library. A panel discussion with former staff members was held April 22. And the year culminated with a May 4 gala attended by students, faculty, and State Hornet alumni.

Sac State President Robert S. Nelsen calls journalism the “heart of democracy” and lauds the State Hornet’s legacy.

“I am proud of the work of the State Hornet reporters over the past 70 years,” Nelsen says. “Their efforts to bring a student voice to issues facing our campus and community are to be commended.

“Despite tremendous changes within their field, they have been impressively nimble in order to continue bringing quality stories to the campus community. I wish the State Hornet 70 more years of excellence.”

Among the many alumni populating newsrooms throughout the U.S. is Jim Sweeney, editorial director at The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa). Along with two of his colleagues, Sweeney received the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the deadly 2017 Sonoma County fires. Frank Marqua, who was a reporter, news editor and associate editor during his time with the Hornet from 1977 to 1980, was a member of that Pulitzer Prize-winning team as head of the Press Democrat’s copy desk.

 For Sweeney, working at the State Hornet was an excellent way to prepare for his career.

“We were putting out a newspaper twice a week. We had real deadlines, and we had beats we were covering,” he says. “It was the full experience start to finish. I do think it prepared me quite well.”

As the paper celebrates its 70th birthday, its current editors are looking to the future. One major change is elimination of the print version of the State Hornet, which already has a robust online presence, as the publication goes to a completely digital format in the fall 2019 semester.

“It’s really cool to think about how many people have come before me and gone out into the world as State Hornet alumni, and how many people the State Hornet has affected and how the State Hornet has affected how newspapers operate all over the country,” says Claire Morgan, the 2018-19 editor-in-chief.

“I’m excited to see where the State


Jonathan Morales

Jonathan Morales became a permanent member of the Sac State communications team in 2017 as a writer and content editor. He previously worked at San Francisco State University and as a newspaper reporter and editor. What appeals to Jonathan? Local beer and Bay Area sports teams.