The official student newspaper of Tarleton

The then and now of the JTAC Newspaper

In the Fall of 1899, John Tarleton founded Tarleton State University. The first class at Tarleton consisted of five students. Fast forward to 2022, Tarleton State University is home to 13,300 students across five campus locations, as well as students continuing their education online. For many people, one thing that sets Tarleton apart from other institutions is the amount of traditions that come with being a Tarleton Texan. Every Texan has their favorite tradition ranging from the bonfire during homecoming week, to purple pancakes, or even to the Purple Poo. One of the oldest traditions on the Tarleton campus is the official school newspaper, the JTAC.

What is now known as the JTAC started off as the Tarletonite. The first issue of the newspaper was released in 1919. Since the newspaper first began, the name has only changed once. The name was changed to the JTAC which stands for John Tarleton Agricultural College. The name was chosen by John H. Winters. Winters chose the name after winning a contest to change the name of the paper; he also received a prize of $5. 

Over the past 103 years, the JTAC has been around. It has been under the care of many different students passionate about doing their part to ensure the Tarleton family is informed on things taking place on our campus, as well as in the world. The current staff consists of 16 members, three editors, an advertising manager and 12 contributors. The newspaper covers all campus events, spotlights, organizations, and news around campus, in the Tarleton community and also news around the Stephenville area and the world. 

Our current Editor-in-Chief is Blake Smith. Smith has been with the JTAC since 2019. She began her journey with the newspaper as a contributor and has held each of the editor positions during her time at the paper. Smith also works as the Creative Editor while still holding the title of Editor-in-Chief. While holding two editor positions, being a full time student, working two other jobs and balancing a social life can be very difficult, Smith has done a phenomenal job handling all the demanding tasks that her positions require. Since working in media, Smith changed her major to communications and wants to work freelance in the social media realm. 

“I like being able to record moments in history and being able to make history here at the JTAC,’’ Smith stated.

The 2022 JTAC staff has done just that. This past Feb., the very first edition of the Black History Month paper was published. This newspaper focused on black excellence and highlighted all the great things that are happening amongst the African American community here at Tarleton. As a media source, making sure everyone is represented and shown appreciation for the hard work and talent they bring forth is beyond important. The Black History Month edition of the paper was produced in order to acknowledge and admire all the achievements amongst the diverse parts of our campus. 

‘’ It was fun to bring a little sense of diversity not only to the school but to the team. It was fun to show the university that you can represent a community of people even when that community is not overly present amongst some groups,’’ Smith stated.

Working alongside Smith is our Content Editor, Ashton Cox and our Multimedia Editor, Aspen Hoover. Cox is in her second semester with the JTAC. After working as a contributor her first semester here at Tarleton, she decided to take on the task of working as the Content Editor. Similar to Smith, after working in media, Cox decided to add a minor in communications to her degree plan. 

“I feel that whether we’re talking veterinarian or communications, this job is going to help me because you have to know how to talk to people, write emails, and be good at communicating in life. This job helps with communication skills and things along those lines, and whether I end up working in the field I plan on working in or I change my mind, I feel this job has helped me along the way,’’ Cox stated. 

In the world we live in, print newspapers are not as popular as they once were. While we still see the value in a physical record copy of articles, ensuring that we are also utilizing the social media realm to make sure news is presented well and accurately. People spend hours on social media platforms, so making sure we cover those grounds as well is very important. 

Hoover is our Multimedia Editor and has been with the JTAC since December of 2020. She also began as a contributor, then worked her way up to the title of Multimedia Editor. This role is super important at the JTAC because having an online presence on a college campus holds a lot of value. Not only does Hoover run our social media platforms, but she also runs the JTAC website. Making sure the articles are not only in print form, but are also published on the website which holds the opportunity for  more traffic for the newspaper and the articles we are working so hard to produce. 

“I have loved the networking side of things. My favorite JTAC moment was the day Dr. Sherri Benn came into the office with tears in her eyes expressing her appreciation for the article I wrote about her. Really seeing how important the work that we do for others is inspiring,’’ Hoover stated. 

One of the most interesting things about the JTAC is that it is not a school funded paper. Being able to produce news articles and talk about topics people care about is very important in a college community. Being the official school newspaper but not being funded by the school is very cool. However, this means that we run off of the need for others to advertise their businesses. This part is incredibly vital to our paper. Without funding, the JTAC would not be what it is today. Kylan Mills works as our Advertising Sales Manager. She does a fantastic job making sure that businesses understand how valuable a print ad can still be. 

Mills has been at the JTAC for nearly a year. She had spent three years working in the student media office before taking on the role as the Ad Sales Manager for the JTAC. Mills was looking for a position that offered her the opportunity to gain experience as a salesperson and the JTAC was more than happy to have her fill that position. 

“I want to go into sales and it took me a while of being in college to figure that out, but I found out that I am a people person, but I didn’t have experience using those skills yet, so when I was presented with the opportunity I was super excited,’’ Mills stated.

This year’s staff has done some ground breaking things. One of these includes hosting the first ever Taste of Stephenville event which was hosted by Mills.

“One of my favorite JTAC moments was getting to host the first Taste of Stephenville and the opportunity that we have to do it again,’’ Mills stated. 

While the JTAC is doing amazing things now, we believe it is very important to acknowledge all of those that paved the way for us and started the legacy that we have the opportunity to carry on. Whether it was from the first publication to the most recent, every individual that has had a hand in producing the JTAC has played a valuable role in getting the newspaper to where it is today. Finding JTAC alumni is a very special thing, and we appreciate all the work that has been done to keep the newspaper going over the past century. 

As the times have changed, so has the JTAC and the ways that we are able to spread news. We had the opportunity to speak with a member of JTAC alumni to gather some insight about what the JTAC looked like and how it operated before it became the newspaper we now know. 

Gina Wilson Roberts worked for the JTAC back in 1984. She spent three semesters on staff and eventually became an editor. Roberts was a reporter who focused on feature stories. Her favorite thing about the entire process was having the opportunity to write and report things in a way that was tasteful, intriguing and informative. 

“My time at the JTAC taught me how important communication is and how to do it well. I learned a lot of people skills during my time there and I also learned how to be more relatable to others,’’ Roberts stated.

While working at the JTAC, Roberts wrote many articles on various topics, but her favorite was a column called Calamity Gina. This article addressed all the adventures and mishaps that Roberts experienced as a freshman. The idea came from a day of rebellion and lack of preparation. Roberts, along with one of her roommates, decided to skip class and go mudding. After failing to accurately prepare for the occasion, the girls ended up getting their vehicle stuck in the yard of another student that was very admired around campus. This day led to the Calamity Gina column and will forever be one of her favorite moments from her time as a JTAC staff member. 

Although the times have really changed since Roberts’ time at the JTAC, the same love for the paper lives on. Over time the need for print newspapers has become less vital due to the technology we have today and the social media realm. When asked about the downfalls and benefits of the current times, Roberts gave great insight. 

“I think in a way both times have an advantage over the other. Technology now is so advanced that it is so much faster to go through the entire process of producing a paper. It also gives reporters access to more resources and informative sites. On the other hand, I feel that the staff during my time really benefited from learning about every aspect that went into making a newspaper and I think this generation is missing out on that. We also were required to be more communicative in person rather than emailing or zooming people for interviews. That helped a lot with our people skills,’’ Roberts stated. 

Throughout the past century, the JTAC has seen many things and been under the direction of so many talented people. While the value of print newspapers is often overlooked, Tarleton State University has always been consistent in giving students the opportunity to venture out in the media world by giving us this outlet. In turn, it has also given students, faculty, staff and campus visitors a look at news from a source that is close to the heart of Tarleton. Working for the JTAC is a very rewarding job, but also has its challenges. The amount of work that is put in by the staff every week to make sure the paper reflects the school and student body  is beyond words. Working for the JTAC is more than sitting at a computer and writing a story. It is networking with people, organizations and teams around campus, attending events, photographing, using your creativity to come up with ideas the study body wants to hear about, and so much more. While the work put into the job is strenuous and time consuming, seeing your work printed and distributed around the campus is a fantastic feeling. 

It is a privilege to be a part of something bigger that has the ability to impact so many and being a part of a valuable tradition is something we cherish here at the JTAC. We would like to thank everyone who has ever played a role in the JTAC family as well as our audience. Student media is important and we will continue to serve Tarleton State University as the official newspaper with a heart for the student body and a desire to represent our school in the best way possible.