Making Jambar History: Alumni Reflect on Experiences

Former editor-in-chief Debora Flora Shaulis and other Jambar staff members pose in the Kilcawley Center West office, 1988-1989. Photo courtesy of Debora Flora Shaulis.

By C. Aileen Blaine

Despite being a small publication, Youngstown State University’s student-run newspaper The Jambar has many years of history under its Rust Belt heritage. Three YSU alumni reflect on their experiences and memories with the publication.

Justin Wier spent two and a half years with The Jambar, starting as a news reporter in 2015. During his time spent with the paper, he progressed to the position of managing editor. 

While Wier served as news editor, The Jambar ran themed issues dealing with topics such as the 2016 political race and the Black experience at YSU. Several issues were nominated for collegiate awards in journalism.

In his coverage of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence’s attendance at the 2016 Canfield Fair, Wier had the opportunity to interact with other reporters from noteworthy news organizations such as NPR and CNN. 

“It was just a unique experience and I got some really good clips out of it,” Wier said.  “I still have my press pass.”

Aside from working as a reporter, Wier recalled other fond memories of his experience at The Jambar. He said there were many Fridays spent with the staff playing Super Smash Bros. in the office’s Fedor Hall basement location.

“I feel like there was some really good friendships, and just the whole experience of just working together, trying to break stories and come up with things — it’s unique,” he said. “I think you feel more connected to the university than [other] people, because you’re talking to people in the administration and you develop relationships with professors outside of your major’s area.”

For Brian J. Macala, his two-and-a-half years experience with The Jambar in the late 1980s began accidentally. He began as a backup for a sports editor who quit unexpectedly in November 1986, but by graduation Macala became the managing editor. 

In his time as sports reporter and editor, he fondly recalled The Jambar’s sponsorship of YSU’s football game against the University of Akron in 1987. The paper hosted “Red-White Day” to raise campus spirit for the “blizzard bowl” game, including office decorating contests, pep rallies and a contest to find the best use of a red and white food. 

“My best friend … and I ran into a place that was tossing out radishes, which we thought was one of the most unique red and white foods that we had seen,” Macala said. 

The Jambar played a role in the 1988 celebration of YSU’s 80th anniversary. The issue explored the origin of the penguin mascot and the story behind The Jambar’s name. The paper staff hosted events such as the “Rock on the Roof” at the parking deck on Wick Avenue.

It was also, in part, a commentary piece written  in 1988 by Macala that led to the naming of Fedor Hall, after he did research on the Campbell, Ohio educators who made a large donation to the university’s unnamed school of education. After consideration by the board of trustees, the building was named Fedor Hall.

“It was personal to me, it was something that still stays with me,” Macala said. “I have the articles that remind me that it was a unique position.”

Debora Flora Shaulis spent the years 1985-1989 with The Jambar, moving up from staff reporter to editor-in-chief. Despite her original track as a medical technology major, with the encouragement of a professor, then-faculty adviser Carolyn Martindayle, Flora Shaulis began attending production nights and writing small bylines.

Her time spent at The Jambar led her to the “epiphany” she wanted to work in news media. After graduation, she would go on to write for a variety of local publications, such as The Vindicator and The Catholic Exponent. 

Of her favorite memories, Flora Shaulis recalled paper production nights fondly. She described the experience as difficult due to the technological limitations of the day, such as developing photos from film in a darkroom and pasting copy onto layout boards. However, she said the long nights provided her with the opportunity to make lasting friendships with other staff members.

“As reporters, we documented history and made some history of our own,” Flora Shaulis said. 

The Jambar covered several notable events in Flora Shaulis’ time, such as Jim Tressel’s rising notoriety as head coach of YSU’s football team and the controversial results of the 1989 Student Government election. 

The Jambar was recognized as an American Collegiate Press All-American Paper for the 1988-89 school year, with Flora Shaulis acting as managing editor. 

“I’ve stayed in touch with many of my colleagues,” Flora Shaulis said. “I will always be grateful for the friendships that grew during my Jambar years.”

Former editor-in-chief Debora Flora Shaulis and other Jambar staff members pose in the Kilcawley Center West office, 1988-1989. Photo courtesy of Debora Flora Shaulis.

Former managing editor Justin Wier attended and covered multiple campaign events for the 2016 presidential race, including those of Hillary Clinton and President Donald Trump. Photo courtesy of Justin Wier/The Jambar Archives.