The first news columns of The Gannon Knight were created with the steel keys of a typewriter and printed on the ground floor of the campus’ Walker Building in 1946. What was then known as “The Gannonite” has continued as a vital student-produced news organization for a 75-year history.
Through students’ voices, The Gannon Knight has headlined dozens of milestone events occurring over three quarters of a century.
Students have reported on stories of campus life from the early “Jazz Jottings” and “Sports Shorts” of the first issues to signature milestones such as the retirement of Archbishop John Mark Gannon in 1966, Gannon’s newly attained university status in 1979, and the integration with Villa Maria College in 1989. More recently, it covered the opening and enhancements of facilities including Nash Library, Wehrle Hall, I-HACK and the Highmark Events Center.
The 2021-22 Editorial Board gathers in the podcast studio on production night.
Just as the columns of a building are integral to its structure, so are a newspaper’s column inches vital to its recollection of history. The “columns” that make up The Knight are now produced digitally in a computer laboratory in the Center for Communication and Arts, but its mission remains unchanged.
The Knight has always proved to advocate the student experience. It has captured the experience of a Black student on campus while calling for equal rights and voiced students’ opinions on the Vietnam War and campus safety following the Kent State shootings.
Past Knight Editor-in-Chief Kelly Fennessy Meredith ’08 said student-produced news functions as a channel for students to inform their peers.
“I think it’s important to always have an independent entity that is really promoting the good but is also being the watchdog and making sure we’re doing what’s right,” Fennessy Meredith said.
“Something like The Knight – it’s such a great avenue for student voices to be heard,” she said.
Creating Discourse Beyond the Classroom
Part of the Gannon experience is what happens beyond the walls of the classroom.
Former Gannon President Joseph J. Wehrle said that just as professors teach students in the classroom, students decide what knowledge to impart in The Gannon Knight each week.
“You both fulfill your own curiosity while also sharing the knowledge that you learned with more people in a far broader audience, and I still believe that’s how I do my job today.” - Tim Craig ’99
The Knight staff has continued to meet weekly over the years to pitch stories before reporting on and producing high-quality articles ready to be placed on the page on production night.
Drafts of each page are laid out from a production night in the early 2000s.
“I tried to write about things that weren’t necessarily just university issues. I tried to write more about student issues,” said Washington Post Reporter Tim Craig ’99 as he recalled his own time at The Knight.
Craig said the one lesson he carried into his career is that when he was interested in a topic, someone else probably was, too. Then, he would write about it.
“You both fulfill your own curiosity while also sharing the knowledge that you learned with more people in a far broader audience, and I still believe that’s how I do my job today,” Craig said. “That sort of philosophy really took root at The Knight.”
Students covered events including Gannon Football Coach and past-Erie Mayor Lou Tullio leading the Golden Knights to victory in 1951, the amid the women’s rights movement in the ’70s, and originated the idea of a collegiate homecoming queen at Gannon in 1954.
“Without college journalism, we wouldn’t have a well-educated public, and I think that’s something everyone needs to know about and acknowledge, no matter what their career field is going to be.” - Madeline Bruce ’22
Current Editor-in-Chief Madeline Bruce ’22 recalls a pivotal moment in her own college career where she profiled a transgender student on campus whose family rejected her identity. The student found a community of support between her professors and other students at Gannon, but she also faced hardships while learning to express her identity.
“I was able to tell the story of someone who didn’t have the opportunity to be heard anywhere else and was often misunderstood by the community at large,” Bruce said. “Without college journalism, we wouldn’t have a well-educated public, and I think that’s something everyone needs to know about and acknowledge, no matter what their career field is going to be.”
The Beginning of a New Era
The Knight underwent a digital evolution in 2020 when it ceased print publication and launched a digital news site.
The Gannon Knight continues to prosper as a digital news entity, offering weekly digital and PDF versions of the paper, as well as podcasts produced in the newly engineered podcast studio.
The organization has also received state- and national-level awards for content and design, including an overall First Place with Special Merit award by the American Scholastic Press Association – the highest award available – in 2021.
The year 2021 also became the year that The Knight said goodbye to its longtime adviser, Frank Garland, assistant professor of communication and the arts.
Garland, who served as adviser for 15 years before retiring, has proven to be a pillar of The Gannon Knight newsroom with his red pen, quick wit and baseball statistics.
“I’ll be sad to leave, but not for the publication’s sake,” Garland said. “In all honesty, I think a new person and a new voice coming in will help energize the students.”
As a new chapter begins, current students are optimistic about the future of The Knight.
Anna Malesiewski ’24, the current features editor, said there’s untapped potential in the various forms of media available on campus.
“I think there are so many opportunities and avenues for collaboration between different student groups in the communications building and on campus as a whole,” Malesiewski said. “I hope new leadership will facilitate and promote that goal.”
At the end of the day, The Gannon Knight remains an integral part of preserving and shaping the history of Gannon University.
By Chloe Forbes ’21, web assistant