NIU celebrates first publication of student newspaper


The first issue of the student newspaper, then titled the “Northern Illinois,” was printed in 1899.

By Dan Doren

DeKALB — The first publication of the Northern Star was chosen as one of NIU’s Key Moments in celebration of the university’s 125th anniversary.

Originally called the Northern Illinois, the student-run newspaper was founded in 1899, and 1,500 copies of its inaugural issue circulated in October of that year. The first issue’s cover page details the establishment of NIU — then called the Northern Illinois State Normal School — and the election of John W. Cook as the institution’s first president.

Among other content featured in the first issue is perspective on topics such as school location as well as information regarding faculty, student organizations and other subjects of interest.

The newspaper staff would continue to print editions of the Northern Illinois on a monthly basis and would seek content suggestions from other students. These suggestions included jokes, poetry and gossip, according to NIU’s website.

The Northern Star now releases content daily and has received hundreds of awards since its inception. These include the National Pacemaker Award, the highest-honored collegiate newspaper award, in 1974 and 2008 and the National Online Pacemaker Award in 2001, 2002 and 2004.

Spring 2020 Editor in Chief Sam Malone said while the Northern Star’s goal of providing the study body and the DeKalb community with quality news coverage remains, the organization is currently making an effort to expand its media horizons.

“We’re trying to transition from being a newspaper … into a more multimedia company,” she said. “We’re publishing online, we’re making videos and we’re working on … having digital content in addition to our print product.”

Other Northern Star history:

  • 1923: The Northern Illinois begins printing biweekly, as opposed to monthly.

  • March 1931: The newspaper publishes its first printed photograph.

  • 1954: The Northern Illinois changes its name to the Northern Star.

  • Nov. 25, 1963: Tri-Swine Omega, the Northern Star’s “fraternity,” is chartered.

  • 1968: The Northern Star begins publishing daily.

  • 1995: The newspaper’s online version launches.