The early 1970s were turbulent years for the United States, and students at the University of Rhode Island experienced their own student rebellion during a time when youth lacked trust in authority.
Throughout the turmoil, the news produced on campus was valuable to students as they were searching for information and demanding change to resolve the prevalent injustices around them.
From its birth in 1908 until it became The Good 5 Cent Cigar, URI’s student paper was named The Beacon, printing stories like “Rhode Island Rifle Team Beginning Schedule,” and Â “Rhody Smothers New Bedford in Opening Basketball Game 61-16.” As years continued, the masthead changed its look and so did its layout. The Beacon lasted until 1970 when a group of impassioned, ambitious and assertive student reporters who craved a publication that reported the politics of the campus and how the Vietnam War was affecting student life transformed the paper into the Good 5 Cent Cigar. This change was done so by a select few, including current URI assistant professor of journalism and journalism department head, John Pantalone.
Bill Loveless, a URI alumnus who majored in journalism, was executive editor of the Cigar his junior and senior years in 1972 and 1973. At the time that he took over, the paper had already become a platform for students who desired change in curriculums to properly reflect the era they were living in and to question administrator’s decisions and further uncover wrong.
“The Cigar was my major activity at URI,” Loveless said. “It was my passion, all I wanted to do was write stories.”
He began writing for the paper during his start at URI and later became news editor before being promoted to executive editor. He said once things subsided in the country and anti-war feelings abated, he and the staff shifted the direction to a more traditional paper while still holding on to a radical tinge. At this point, there were no longer any more demonstrations on the quad, which in prior years had lead the university to be shut down for a few days.
Rob Sherwin, too, remembered this time as reactionary for both students and faculty at URI. Sherwin was the editor for the school’s yearbook and created a new landscape for creativity and photography. The yearbook featured poetry and highlights of students’ work with an abstract layout.
“We were all kind of ahead of our time,” Sherwin said about those who worked with the Cigar and the yearbook.
Loveless said there was a time when the campus was divided between the progressive and the conservative. He recalled a time when the Cigar, while he was editor, was petitioned to be shut down by Greek life because the organization felt the Cigar was not supportive of their cause. He met with the organization leader and was able to hold back the shutdown.
“We were reporting on the same-sex dorms issue, the drinking age being lowered and about a new pub opening in the Union,” said Loveless. “But we still held the mentality, ‘Don’t trust anyone over 30-years-old.’” The paper also reported on the construction of the Fine Arts building and Chaffee, lectures on campus and faculty and the student council.
Loveless is still connected to URI. He is an active member of the Harrington School of Communications and Media Executive Advisory Board. Loveless is TV host and journalist at Platts Energy Week reporting on energy markets around the world from Washington D.C. After college he was a reporter at the Pawtucket Times for seven years.
Much of the work that Loveless and Sherwin and previous editors have done for URI can be found in archives on the school’s website with a simple search.