Since this article was published, Applause has nearly doubled in size and is now printed in full color. In addition, every issue dating back to the very first in 1999 is viewable online.
For ten years, Applause has been a monthly constant for SOA. The first issue came out in December of 1999, and since then Applause has transformed from a more traditional newspaper into a sixteen page, color newsprint magazine. The evidence of Applause’s change is most prominent on the paper’s covers throughout the years. When Applause began it was a black and white publication, and was released free with the promise that the following issues would be available for twenty-five cents. With the exception of spot color on the paper’s first page, the newspaper remained in its original style until January of 2002 when Applause began to resemble the magazine format that it uses today. The January 2002 paper was the first of Applause’s biannual SOA musical issues, and that year SOA was gearing up to perform Peter Pan at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. Since then, Applause’s covers have usually reflected the interest of its editors or staff members.
Some of the most colorful and memorable covers can be found from the 2005-2006 school year. That year, staff writer Omi Naderi was in charge of graphics and his hard work is evident in the vibrant covers that he created. The year Applause’s cover featured seventh graders traveling through another dimension for Art Smart, Mr. Kerr dominating the universe in honor of AP music theory class being named number one in the world, Dr. Cusatis as an internet obsessed Applause fanatic for a story about the Myspace phenomenon, and the bizarre inner thoughts of Mr. Brehm and Mr. Smyth for an article on Psychology class at SOA. When Lucy Hunter took over as editor in 2007, she abolished the Old English style mast head, and featured the work of a visual artist on each cover. When I took over last year I opted to use visual artist Kenish Magwood’s colorful and cartoonish drawings for the cover. Her art was featured on most of last year’s cover, with the exception of the December issue. I might have had forgotten to ask Kenish about a cover that month, because I realized, the day the paper was due, that the issue had everything except a cover. The cover of the December 2008 issue has a picture of staff member Alek Mihok beaming behind a poinsettia. This is because I handed him a camera and said, “Here, go take a picture of something.” Dr. Cusatis quickly picked up a random poinsettia and said, “Use this in the picture! It’ll be Christmasy.” I would like to say that this sort of last minute work is abnormal, but I think the hectic, up to the deadline energy has always been a part of our history.
The covers haven’t been the only thing to change in the last ten years. Many people flip to the back of Applause to read the comical and often ridiculous horoscopes, but many don’t know that for four years the horoscopes had many serious messages like, “Where something important has been lost, something else important has been found.” Now, though the horoscopes do occasionally give someone something to think about, they’re usually there to tickle the funny bone instead of the soul.
Despite the changes, there has been one constant throughout the paper’s history. That constant has been journalism advisor, Dr. Cusatis. I can say with certainty that being the editor of the newspaper would be a completely different experience without Dr. Cusatis. He is the driving force behind the paper that invokes both fear that he’ll smite you for not working hard enough, and a sense of admiration. He took some time to sit down and tell us about the busy history of Applause.
Why did you want to begin a school newspaper, and how did you become the advisor?
Mrs. Myers hired me to teach senior English, but there were no seniors yet, so I was assigned a variety of other classes and actually worked in the media center for a little while. There was a journalism class taught by another teacher, whom I started to help out and, after about a month, I took over. I had taught journalism at St. John’s High School and started their newspaper Islander Pride. Mrs. Meyers wanted a newsletter that would go out to the community. The first issue was printed in October 1999 on copier paper and was called Artifacts. I found out later that there was an art journal named Artifacts. Applause was one of the names the new yearbook had discarded from a list of possible titles for publication. We salvaged it and in December we published our first issue of Applause that was more specifically aimed at the student body. I knew it would be a privilege to run a newspaper at a school of our caliber, and it has been.
What were the working conditions when Applause first began?
I was teaching out of what is now Ms. Miller’s little guidance office. We had five female staff members. We had one computer for student use and we managed fine because all five staff members were reliable. I may not be fashionable to say so, but females in my experience are better organized, more attentive, and more reliable when it comes to putting together a high school newspaper. Of course there have been exceptions.
Also, we went from over nighting floppy discs, to using zip discs, to flash drives, to finally uploading the paper to the printer’s server. I can’t tell you how many trips I’ve made to Georgetown to deliver last minute files or pick up last minute papers.
What have the biggest challenges been about being the advisor of Applause?
Training students to be self-motivated which begins with training them to do what they are told. I don’t believe in the distinction between school and the real world-for students or teachers. Learning is a very real, life-long process, but in journalism it is more obvious because of the publication of the newspaper provides instant accountability. A school environment is one of the biggest obstacles to learning. The students who can see beyond the walls of the school do the best. Of course, it’s challenging to get a respectable paper published every month, find advertisers, and see that kids are learning from issue to issue. But when students become self-motivated these things occur on their own.
Overall, what have you been the most proud of regarding Applause?
This is our eighty-third issue in ten years and that’s not a bad average. But I’m proud that this is all the result of hard work from students. The graduation issues are forty-eight pages and would be longer if the printer could handle it. The staff has also produced special issues for every musical and every Art Smart. I cannot recall a time when they did not crackdown to meet a pressing deadline. This type of reliability is gratifying. And they press on even when their work goes unrecognized. I’m especially proud of them when they are acknowledged positively by readers. Mr. Davis always made a point to read every word of every issue and then stop by with encouraging words for the staff. Occasionally he asked for old issues just to walk down memory lane. We have nearly every back issue, and it’s quite an archive.
What would you like to see happen or improve in the paper’s future?
It’s never as good as it could be. I’d like to see more interviews with great professional artists, as we have in this issue. I’d also like to feature more work and profiles on our own artists. And we could always do better seeking out the great stories that exist among our own student body and staff. I’m hoping that the new facility will help our vision match the product more closely. Having fewer limits, particularly with technology, will help. I wish we could get around Bess more easily. She makes a journalist’s work even tougher. And I’d like to see a few additional motivated writers join the staff next year.