How the Star became the Star

Ted Bacino

Ted Bacino

By Joelle McGinnis '89

The Northern Star was a joke to Ted Bacino. He never really gave it a second thought.

In reality Bacino, editor-in-chief of the then weekly Northern Illinois student newspaper (1954-1955), had bigger plans – a professional newspaper format with a serious commitment to journalism and a new name to make students take notice. The Northern State News.

With the support of Leslie Holmes, then president of the Northern Illinois Teachers College, the only thing left before moving forward with the new plans was approval of the college’s President’s Council. Only it wasn’t a rubber-stamp kind of group. Holmes counseled Bacino, urging him to come up with a few alternatives to present.

So Bacino did just that. Only he intentionally proposed alternatives that he believed would make his favored option stand out as the obvious choice. Puns, if you would.

The joke turned out to be on Bacino.

“I thought The Northern Star was such a corny name that they’d never seriously consider it,” Bacino said, laughing at the memory. “But then Leslie Holmes came out of the meeting and told me they thought the name – The Northern Star – was tremendous.”

Even though he didn’t end up with the new name he had originally envisioned, Bacino did not let that stop The Northern Star from becoming everything he believed The Northern State News could be.

Out was the old mimeograph-like newsletter format of the old Northern Illinois. In was the newsprint stock readers associated with newspapers. The Northern Star also featured a new, modern newspaper design, the first student cartoonist in the publication’s history and updated ads from typeset, text-only boxes to display ads featuring photos and graphics.

“We went from being a publication that no one would pick up to a newspaper that disappeared like crazy,” Bacino said. “It worked because we had a good staff and we had a mission. We became a real newspaper.”