After 50 years, The CT honors its history

This story is part of The Commonwealth Times’ special coverage in honor of its 50th anniversary

Georgia Geen, Executive Editor

A few months ago, Ryan Rich, the design editor, and I were clicking through the archives of The Commonwealth Times when we happened upon a cover that caught our attention. The first issue of The CT featured a young woman in late ‘60s garb holding a sign. The design work, the dress collar, the entire image felt like a relic.

The date on the publication was Sept. 10, 1969. It didn’t take long to realize the significance of the upcoming calendar year.

“Let’s put out a special issue for the 50th anniversary,” Ryan said, or something to that effect.

He mocked up a front page mimicking the design of The CT’s inaugural publication, and the concept was born.

This special section aims to recreate the design of the first issue of The Commonwealth Times, — as closely as possible when our tools involve almost exclusively the Adobe Suite — and showcase some highlights of our history. It’s far from comprehensive; 50 years can’t be condensed into eight pages. What I hope we’ve achieved is an eclectic mix that gives a taste of all The CT has been: a “rag-tag” community of students, a player in the underground scene and a hub for award-winning journalism.

The first cover of The Commonwealth Times featured Jeri Cutler-Voltz, who started the School of Performing Arts in the Richmond Community, or SPARC, in 1981. CT archives

The issue’s design is born out of a reverence for the work of the people who had fewer tools than we do. It combines different elements from the paper’s design over the years to indicate the range of processes and aesthetics.

Five decades have brought changes to the staff and our content. Gone are cheeky house ads for recruiting new staffers — which discouraged “narcs” and anyone “ugly,” “too busy” or “over 7 mos. pregnant” from applying in 1971. Our only hand-drawn artwork is a few thrown-together, ironically bad comics published out of necessity. Glancing over past mastheads indicates the staff used to be male-dominated — with the exception of a few semesters, the opposite has been true for most of the paper’s recent history. And while our racial diversity, especially among higher-up positions, isn’t always commendable, it’s better than it used to be.

But at its core, not much has changed about the paper. Our office has moved many times, but it’s still a medley of a hangout spot, a high-stress and somewhat dramatic newsroom and, occasionally, an overnight residency for the sentimental editor or staffer in need of housing. We still get together for a drink — or 10. The Commonwealth Times was, is and will always be a magnet for talented, hardworking journalists with varying levels of dedication to punctuality. It’s an honor to follow the legacy established by my predecessors and to have played a role in bringing our history to light.


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