Friar student journalism has 84 year history


Tommy Pero

Mastheads and titles have changed, but many of the challenges and benefits of journalism at Malvern have been consistent since the 1930s.

“The publication of a magazine by any high school is of vital importance, for it stimulates independent thinking and develops journalistic thinking in those who are so inclined,” Charles Ford ’32 penned in the 1932 edition of The Malvernian.

In 1932, Ford was a founding member of the first ever student-run newspaper at Malvern Prep: The Friar’s Lantern. Today, The Friar’s Lantern is the name of the online companion and social media for The Blackfriar Chronicle.

Ford’s message is still consistent with the mission and purpose of The Blackfriar Chronicle today, but student-run journalism has changed over the last 84 years.

news3The Friar’s Lantern was run out of Austin Hall before the building was restored. The newspaper eventually changed its name to the Cynosure. However, Mr. Stewart, Mr. McGuire, Mr. D’Ascenzo, and Mr. Simpson all did not know why it changed its name.

“The word ‘cynosure’ means center of attention, brilliance,” Director of Development and 1981 Cynosure Editor-in-Chief Mr. Victor D’Ascenzo said. “We really wanted to make sure that we were advocates of what the newspaper was supposed to do— not what we wanted to do, but what the paper was meant to be.”

The two main purposes of the Cynosure, according to D’Ascenzo, were to be the central place where students get information about the school and the voice of the students. They were not afraid to cover controversial topics to fulfill these purposes.

“We would find opportunities that if we felt that there was an issue that was important to the student, that we would put it in the paper,” D’Ascenzo said. “That was always tricky because you want to have a fine balance. You of course wanted the administration to like you, but you also wanted your classmates to say that’s a fair representation – or no that’s not a fair representation.”

Eight years after D’Ascenzo graduated, the Cynosure was refreshed. The adviser at the time, Fr. Edson Wood, wanted to redefine the paper’s identity.

“[Fr. Wood] wanted something that meant more to Malvern than the Cynosure. You could ask 20 kids to define that word— I don’t think anybody knew what it was. I still don’t know what it is,” Director of School Counseling and former Blackfriar Chronicle Assistant Editor Mr. Paul Simpson ’86 said.

In 1985, Fr. Wood wanted the name to be something that connected better with Malvern. He came up with a couple choices and presented them to the editors and they picked The Blackfriar Chronicle.

news1The name comes from the Augustinians’ nickname. They are called the “Black Friars” because of their black colored robes.

But the name wasn’t the only change that came in ’85. Fr. Wood wanted an authentic newspaper feel, so he choose a cheaper paper that didn’t last as long as the heavier paper on which the Cynosure was printed, according to Simpson.  

“Fr. Wood was a stickler about things,” Simpson said, “which was great because he really tried to make it professional looking. I think he did a nice job leading us in that.”

Forty years later, The Blackfriar Chronicle lives on. It moved from the bottom floor of Tolentine to the Duffy Center in 2014. With the progression of technology, the paper is able to integrate more graphic design and connectivity.

The publication is now linked to The Friar’s Lantern website, The Blackfriar Chronicle expanded to the internet in the 2012-2013 school year, but they did not start the ball rolling.

In 2011, Brian McDonough ’12 decided he wanted to create an online blog for Malvern in partnership with a student at Episcopal Academy. They hoped to create a network of blogs throughout all of the Inter-Ac schools.

“At the time I just thought that it would be an easy way for students really to display their skills, their writing skills, their media skills, in a platform that was user friendly, and a little bit more up to date with our time than a newspaper,” McDonough said.

McDonough decided to name the newest Malvern news outlet The Friar’s Lantern as a tribute to Malvern’s first newspaper.

news2However, McDonough and others soon struggled to link their blog plan to other schools.

“It was tough getting in touch with all the head of communications at each school,” McDonough said. “I realized that I want to really focus on Malvern’s website — The Friar’s Lantern at Malvern — because it has a huge potential to grow, and to grow into its own entity.”

The Friar’s Lantern and The Blackfriar Chronicle continued on their separate paths until about a year after The Friar’s Lantern was founded.

“[Current BFC adviser] Ms. Plows came to me and said, ‘what if we take the Chronicle and blog and bring it together and make it one new staff writing both for print and online?’” Former Malvern Director of Communications and Friar’s Lantern adviser Mr. Frank Luzi said. “From that point in the 2012 – 2013 school year is when we kind of took it in the direction that it has grown to today.”

Soon after the merger, Luzi left Malvern for a different job and the new coalition continued under the guidance of Plows.

“Leaving behind the blog and the newspaper was the hardest part of leaving [Malvern],” Luzi said. “I saw the potential of what it could become and what it has become the last couple of years.”

McDonough is pleased with how The Friar’s Lantern has turned out.

“I’m extremely happy [with it],” he said. “In a way it’s grown even further than I expected, so I’m really proud of it.

The Friar’s Lantern has expanded its reach to social media. It joined Facebook in 2012, Twitter in 2013 (@friarslantern1), YouTube in 2014, and Instagram in 2015 (@mpfriarslantern1).

In 2015, Malvern students received notable recognition for the work they did on the paper. The Pennsylvania School Press Association rated The Blackfriar Chronicle as one of the top five school newspapers in the state, and co-Editor-in-Chief Justice Bennett was named Pennsylvania Student Journalist of the Year.

The Blackfriar Chronicle is collecting and digitizing any Malvern newspaper prior to 2011. 

We are still in the hunt for Volume 1, No. 1 of The Blackfriar Chronicle. If you have that copy or any other issue that you would permit us to scan, please contact our staff at [email protected].