Photograph courtesy of Christine Damery
By Krista Cascio
In October of 1961, 36 out of the 166 students enrolled at Cape Cod Community College (4Cs), then situated in what is now the Barnstable Town Hall, met under the supervision of Admont Clark and formed the idea that brought this very newspaper into fruition.
The first edition of what was then known as The Beacon was released on November 15, 1961, the title paying tribute to the history of Cape Cod and the many sailors and settlers turned fisherman who were guided by the lighthouse beacons that adorned the shorelines of Cape Cod. The newspaper went through various titles including Zoo, Mother, Other and Community News before revisiting a theme more in the style of 1970’s Cape Cod. Finally, they settled on the title The MainSheet, which is defined as a key piece of a sailboat, used to control the speed of a boat.
Admont Clark, original founder of the 4Cs newspaper, served as the advisor from 1961-1963 before Peter Hartley took over for four years, followed by Dan McCullough and William Babner, who took turns advising between the years of 1970 and 1994. This was until James Kershner arrived at 4Cs as a part-time professor. He stepped onto the scene having nearly 30 years of journalism experience under his belt and worked in collaboration with Michael Bejtlich and Virgina Just as advisors for The MainSheet. In 2001, James Kershner became a full-time member of the 4Cs faculty and assumed the position as the sole advisor to The MainSheet until 2014.
“The thing I liked most about it was that I was not in control,” said Kershner.
As advisor to The MainSheet, it was his job to “select editors who would make good decisions”, but not be deterred by the administration to falsify reality.
When Kershner first started teaching journalism, he could “practically guarantee” the students a position in the field because at the time it was growing, but after the turn of the century, newspapers started declining precipitously.
“I do think it is important to have a physical printed newspaper,” stated Kershner.
His reasoning is that once a story is published in a physical newspaper. “it can’t be changed. It’s a record for all time.”
“The archives make it possible to have a kind of conversation between the 4Cs of the past and the 4Cs of the present,” said Rebekah Ambrose-Dalton, the archivist for the Nickerson Archives.
Students are welcomed and encouraged to make the trip to visit the archives, located in the basement of the Wilkens Library, or go online to read through the first editions of The Beacon.
“We are actively collecting materials in the present that document the history we are making on this campus right now,” said Ambrose-Dalton. “One of the things that I always find striking is how the papers reflect what was happening in the country as a whole and how those events impacted our campus.”
For a long time, the Student Senate controlled not just the funding for clubs, but also the funding for The MainSheet. This has caused problems throughout the years as the Senate had the power to cease said funding if they were investigated by the paper or simply didn’t like something that was printed.
“The administration cannot censor a college paper,” Kershner said. “The MainSheet, like every other newspaper, is protected by the first amendment of the constitution.”
This is the reason why Kershner proposed the idea that The MainSheet be funded by a separate media board so that the paper could function and inform the public as it was intended to do. The MainSheet fought tooth and nail for freedom of the press, and they won.
“When a newspaper tells the truth, there are others who do not like the truth or do not want others to know about it,” said former MainSheet editor Hana Zayatz. “It is the job of the media to equip the public with knowledge. That’s what The MainSheet should always strive to do.”
Zayatz and Madison Medeiros have both worn multiple hats throughout their time working on The MainSheet. Medeiros spent a semester working as the managing editor with Zayatz and then the two would flip roles the following semester.
“I have learned what it means to be credible and dignified with your words,” said Medeiros on some of the valuable life lessons she has learned through her time working on The MainSheet. “I have learned to do the hard work, like fact checking, researching and communicating. It’s not just writing.”
The MainSheet has come a long way since its origins in the 1960s. Despite print newspapers being looked on as a thing of the past, The MainSheet still holds strong, delivering print news to the students and faculty of 4Cs each week.
“It is important that the campus knows that this is a completely student-driven project,” said Medeiros. “From each line, column and photo placed on the pages, every word written and edited, to the color and fonts—this is the raw result of student collaboration.”