Alyssa Macaluso, FCLC ’23, is a head copy editor at The Observer. She is majoring in American studies, minoring in Spanish and dabbling in creative nonfiction writing. Aside from trekking across the city to try yet another ice cream shop, Alyssa loves climbing rocks (and the occasional tree) and kickboxing.
The Stone Age: A Look Back at The Observer’s Roots
Longtime adviser Elizabeth Stone reflects on past iterations of the newspaper
June 1, 2021
If The Observer is a dynamic, ever-changing body of editors, writers and personalities, then Elizabeth Stone was the rock at its core. Steadfast and attentive, the dedication Stone showed to the newspaper — and, even more so, to her student advisees — knows no bounds.
Stone’s place within The Observer was all-encompassing. First credited as “spiritual adviser” in The Observer’s inaugural edition and then “faculty adviser” until 2016, Stone played an indispensable role as a confidential outlet for student journalists, a buffer between the newspaper staff and the administration, a critic tasked with instilling rigorous journalistic standards, and, perhaps most importantly, a thread connecting past and present generations of Observer alumni.
The Beginning of the Observer Family
The Observer was not the first newspaper to try to stake a claim over Fordham Lincoln Center coverage; however, it was the only newspaper to endure more than a few years.
In 1981, a group of students, including Victoria Gioia, College at Lincoln Center (CLC) ’83, and Mitch Berger, CLC ’83, approached Stone, then an assistant professor of media studies, with the desire to establish a newspaper on campus. Stone, who holds a Ph.D. in English and by that time was a published features writer, saw the creation of a student-run newspaper as an opportunity for those interested in journalism to get hands-on experience.
“I knew journalism very well … And I could teach people a lot when questions came up in putting together a story which made answers something they were hungry for.”Elizabeth Stone, former adviser to The Observer
“I never took a journalism course,” Stone said. “But from middle school on, I always wrote for school publications. I wrote for literary magazines. I was an editor of my middle school newspaper and my high school newspaper. And so, for me, and for a lot of people, extracurriculars are really ways of trying out possible pre-professional choices for free.”
The Observer was an opportunity for students to “practice for the real world, but where (they) can win real awards,” Stone explained. It created a space for students to make mistakes, figure out what they did and didn’t like, and gain experience for future career paths.
Despite facing a lack of infrastructure and materials, Stone was armed with ambition and a team of aspiring journalists.
“I knew journalism very well … And I could teach people a lot when questions came up in putting together a story which made answers something they were hungry for,” she said.
Though Stone was integral to the conception of the newspaper, she was on maternity leave when The CLC Observer circulated its first issue.
Alan Ross, who was an adjunct professor of journalism at the time, advised The Observer from 1981-1983 and helped ensure that the newspaper got off the ground while Stone remained involved from afar. Ross, who facilitated the creation of a student newspaper when he taught at Hofstra University, told The Fordham Ram, Rose Hill’s newspaper, in a 1981 interview, “We’re going to give you some competition.”
“It was not only a publication. It was a way of networking, providing internships.”Elizabeth Stone
The Observer’s launch brought more than competition to The Ram’s reader base; it was also commended for helping its student journalists grow professionally. Working for The Observer helped students build their portfolios and foster connections with alumni in the industry.
“It was not only a publication,” Stone explained. “It was a way of networking, providing internships,” as well.
While practical experience may have been a driving force in the creation of The Observer, Stone also pointed to the students’ underlying desire for a sense of community on campus. The Lincoln Center campus in the ’80s was significantly smaller, with no dorms built yet and only commuter students, creating a community that felt transient and abstract.
“All of us in the administration were very happy to see a good newspaper in existence,” George W. Shea, dean of the then-College at Lincoln Center from 1970-85, said in an interview with The Observer for its 25th Anniversary in 2006. “It also gives the community a sense of identity, and we wanted that obviously.”
The ABCs: Always Building Community
If there is one word that comes close to capturing the 35 years Stone advised The Observer, it would be “community.” From creating the Observer family to establishing bonding traditions, Stone focused on fostering a sense of community within the Observer family to create a timeless structure to guide future generations of Observer editors.
“She has been a driving force, I think for the last 40 years, making sure that Observer alumni still stay connected with one another, even well beyond graduating,” Anthony Hazell, FCLC ’07, former editor-in-chief (EIC) in ’06 and current adviser to The Observer, said. “Observer alumni go off into all different paths, but they all still stayed connected; we all still bond over this one common thing that we have.”
Stone pioneered several traditions that shaped students’ experiences on the paper. From a summer retreat to the annual end-of-semester dinners to committing editors’ memories to paper in the “Annual Recollections: Observer Editors (1999-2016),” colloquially known as the “Red Book,” Stone worked to foster a familial spirit among editors.
“The idea of an EIC as a player-coach is something I first learned at The Observer, and Dr. Stone pushed me to embrace the concept.”Corinne Iozzio, FCLC ’05
The summer retreat was especially cherished by editors. Usually held on Saturdays after the close of the spring semester, the newly elected E-Board would gather in the backyard of Stone’s house in New Jersey to commence the “launch of the new editorial board.”
“It was a time in which everyone just hung out, played basketball, watched my cats try to eat food off the table inside,” Stone reminisced. “And then the meeting would begin, and the meeting would be conducted by the new editor-in-chief with the vision for next year.”
Though Hazell remembers the retreats fondly, he identified a different Stone-initiated tradition as the most memorable: “I think the best tradition that she started was really just making the students at The Observer feel that they were independent and in control of the content that they published.”
The traditions initiated and overseen by Stone helped cement the core of The Observer’s legacy and culture, creating unbreakable bonds and a structure that has lasted for generations.
These retreats helped transform the students on the E-Board into more than a group of colleagues — they became a team.
“The idea of an EIC as a player-coach is something I first learned at The Observer, and Dr. Stone pushed me to embrace the concept,” said Corinne Iozzio, FCLC ’05, who was EIC of The Observer in 2004-05 and is now EIC of Popular Science magazine. “In a small team like a college paper, it’s especially important that the Editor lead by example and never shy from getting into the weeds of a story—really cementing the idea that, even with one name a the top of a masthead, we’re all in this together.”
The traditions initiated and overseen by Stone helped cement the core of The Observer’s legacy and culture, creating unbreakable bonds and a structure that has lasted for generations. Still, as independent as the E-Board grew, Stone’s role was indispensable.
Whether that was guiding The Observer into the digital world by establishing a website domain or navigating the technicalities of journalistic ethical standards and practices, Stone was the one whom the students on the E-Board turned to for support.
The students often sought Stone’s counsel when confronted with questions about stylistic changes. “We looked to The Times a lot for ‘How does The Times do this?’” Stone explained. “And I remember when the term ‘cisgender’ came up, we looked at The Times, and The Times had never used it because it grew out of youth culture.
“It was a very, very clever word,” Stone continued. “I didn’t know what ‘cisgender’ meant until students told me, and the decision was, ‘Well, we have a different audience than The Times.’ … So we used it.”
Even though Stone played an instrumental role in advising the students on The Observer, she explained that “It wasn’t just my paper. I was sort of the string, and they (the students) were all the jewels that were strung on the strings, so they were really it.”
A Lasting Legacy
After seeing many generations of students graduate from the ranks of The Observer, Stone stepped down from her position as faculty adviser to The Observer in 2016.
“I didn’t know how enjoyable mentoring would be,” Stone reflected. “I got to know my students in a way that I would never have known them in a class, and I think that made me more sensitive as a teacher, because I knew some of the shoes they were walking in.
“By the time I left, I’d been there 35 years,” Stone, who continues to teach courses in the English department, said of her time advising The Observer. “I left a strong, proud organization. I think what happened was, increasingly, the new editorial boards took on more responsibility for the shape of the paper, and I think that was a good thing.”
However, Stone was far from absent in her former students’ lives. Not many advisers and professors get invited to attend their former students’ weddings, yet Stone has officiated one, that of former advisee Kelsey Butler in 2017.
“On a personal level, (Stone’s) advice during the ups and downs of young adulthood have been invaluable. I still turn to her often.”Kelsey Butler, FCLC ’10
Butler, FCLC ’10 and former layout editor from 2004-06, reminisced how “On a personal level, (Stone’s) advice during the ups and downs of young adulthood have been invaluable. I still turn to her often, and she even got ordained so she could officiate my wedding four years ago! I am very proud to know and have been taught by her.”
Stone regularly catches up with her former students — about 50 Observer alumni a year — either over email, phone calls or in person. “I loved what I was doing when I was doing it and I’ve missed that kind of sustained contact with students, where you really get to know them over four years,” she said.
“What I saw was that people grow,” Stone added. “Not that they had figured everything out by the time they graduated. But they’d begun to.” These sentiments were echoed by many of her former students.
“She inspired me not only as a designer working in journalism but also as a feminist! I’m forever grateful to her and the huge impact she’s had on my life.”Grace Martinez, FCLC ’06
“Prof. Stone had a huge impact on my life and career,” former layout editor Grace Martinez, FCLC ’06, said. “She inspired me not only as a designer working in journalism but also as a feminist! I’m forever grateful to her and the huge impact she’s had on my life.” Martinez, now a freelance art director, was previously with Airbnb Magazine, Travel + Leisure magazine, Men’s Health and Glamour.
Similarly, former arts editor Gary Rosen, CLC ’89, who is now president of his own public relations firm, said Stone’s invaluable advice and guidance made him a better writer and editor.
“She was one of the finest professors I ever had,” Rosen said. “She is a gifted writer and story teller and made learning fun. Imagine that!”
Hazell also characterized Stone as a “friend and mentor” and credits her with encouraging him to take on new positions. As Hazell’s first year at The Observer drew to a close, he said Stone ran into him in Lowenstein and remarked, “You know, you should really run for news editor.”
Hazell had written for the news section for a year but hadn’t considered running for any editorial positions up until that moment. “I was like, ‘Me? A news editor?’” he recalled. “And then, you know, from there it all just snowballed into becoming a news editor, managing editor, editor-in-chief, and now back as an adviser.
“Dr. Stone always encouraged students to kind of set the bar higher for themselves,” Hazell continued. “It was just her style of teaching and advising and mentoring; it always left the students feeling that they should be confident enough in themselves to publish what they wanted to publish, but also with the caveat that they had to be able to defend what they published.
“I still lean on her today for advice on advising and just advice on other things in life,” Hazell explained.
“Dr. Stone is without a doubt the most influential teacher I came across at Fordham,” Butler recalled. “I remember being terrified to even think about writing and having my byline appear anywhere while I was a freshman and sophomore, and probably wouldn’t have done it without a nudge from her. Without even knowing it, I kicked off a career in journalism that is still going today.”
Stone’s high expectations were instrumental in creating a newspaper with an unshakeable legacy. Shea, the dean who oversaw CLC from 1970-1985, commented in a 2006 interview for the paper’s 25th Anniversary: “As I recall the quality of The Observer was much higher than that of its predecessors. Much of this was due, I think, to the hard work and dedication of my colleague, Elizabeth Stone, who worked very hard at building The Observer and deserves our gratitude.”
A more recent review by her colleague Christopher Rodgers, assistant vice president and dean of students at Rose Hill, described Stone as “not only a superb educator, but the ideal advisor for a student club or organization– the kind of faculty partner that makes Fordham a special place through innovative collaboration, a true person for others.
“I’m very proud of everybody who’s been part of it, and I think it was what I did at Fordham that was most gratifying to me.”Elizabeth Stone
“She has first and foremost in mind the student she is advising, either conveying some bit of learning or wisdom or working to get them support or assistance,” he continued. “During my time at Lincoln Center, I was often astonished at her gift for advising: light at one moment, personal the next, always providing reporters and editors the benefit of her deep experience with and affection for Fordham– advice tempered at all times with a gentle sense of humor and delightful appreciation for the absurd.”
Rodgers concluded, “Her partnership with colleagues in Fordham’s student support areas sets the bar for those advising our clubs and organizations … Dr. Stone is a special person in the history of Lincoln Center and of Fordham.”
For 35 years, Stone helped build not only a flexible, durable culture at The Observer but also a lasting structure. “The thing I feel best about was, I suppose, what any founder feels, which is: ‘It worked, they can do without me.’ I feel that very strongly,” Stone said.
“I’m very proud of everybody who’s been part of it, and I think it was what I did at Fordham that was most gratifying to me.”