The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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The Sundial, then and now

When the Sundial unveiled its first issue on Feb. 1, 1957, a large bold ‘?’ greeted readers on the first issue’s front page.

‘Help, help!’ read the masthead, encouraging readers to help name what was then the San Fernando Valley campus of Los Angeles State College’s first student newspaper. The award for coming up with a name was ‘something useful, like a full-grown alligator.’

The Sundial’s first editor in chief, Dick Handt, said even back then, the university that would eventually be CSUN was a school of commuters, and students were indifferent to the idea of school spirit.

Now soon-to-be 74, Handt lives in San Fernando after retiring in 2004 from 42 years working at the Daily News.

‘We were trying to tell (students) what was going on’hellip;We were trying to get people involved on campus,’ said Handt.

It was a new campus (and there were) more night students, more married students’hellip; There wasn’t really a lot of participation in student activities,’ he said. And even in the early days of the university, parking, he said, ‘was always a hassle.’

Handt arrived as the newspaper’s new editor in chief by its third issue and renamed it to the State Standard (‘I got a little tired of not seeing a name,’ he said), which was eventually changed to the Sundial a couple of issues later.

Back then, the newspaper was funded by Associated Students ‘- today, the Sundial runs as a financially-independent publication ‘- and ‘all the powers that be who were actually paying for it’ wanted the name changed, he said. Thus, the staff ran a contest on the front page to come up with the best title of the newspaper.

‘I don’t remember who actually came up with that name (the Sundial),’ Handt joked.

Other than coverage of A.S. elections, Handt said there wasn’t much hard news at that time.

‘The only real story we ever had was when the student body officers (weren’t maintaining their grades)’hellip;I did a story about it,’ said Handt. Because there was not yet a journalism department, the university’s activities adviser was overseeing the Sundial.

‘(The adviser) came up to the print shop aand told me I had to pull (the story),’ Handt said. ‘We went eyeball to eyeball on that’hellip;I won,’ he said.

Handt joined the Sundial after he was editor of the Valley Star at Los Angeles State College, now known as L.A. Valley College.

The commute to L.A. State was too long, he said, so he decided to try the San Fernando Valley campus because it was a newer facility.

‘You could tell looking at the first two issues (of the Sundial), it was pretty haphazard,’ he said. The staff at the time was passionate about the newspaper, he said, but ‘they realized it didn’t look too good.’

He ran into a friend who convinced him to volunteer for the San Fernando Valley campus’ paper, saying that Handt could add ‘a little ‘professionalism” to the then-unnamed newspaper.

At the time, there was no journalism department and no pay for editors, he said. ‘It was one of those deals where not only you were the writer, you were also the photographer (and) you did everything,’ said Handt. They worked nearly 80-hour weeks on the newspaper ‘and they wanted you to show up Saturday to nitpick (the paper) for free after you put the thing to bed,’ he said. He was also involved in the printing of the newspaper, which required heavy linotype machines in which individual letters had to be arranged to create words for print.

Today, the Sundial operates on an editorial staff of 15 with a little under 30 reporters, photographers and contributors. Including the staff of production and advertising, the entire student staff of the Daily Sundial is about 50 people.

When he was editor in chief, ‘it was 100 percent different,’ he said. ‘I did all the layout, I went to the printers, I wrote all the headlines, the president of Associated Students wrote a column,’ he said. Each issue was four pages, and the last issue was six, he said.

The student body was entirely made up of commuters because there were no dormitories yet, Handt said. Enrollment was a little under 700 students, and though he can’t quite remember how much tuition cost, ‘for $100, you could get all your books,’ he said.

Handt transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, in 1958 for journalism and returned to the valley and enrolled at CSUN in 1961. He never graduated from Berkeley nor CSUN, saying that ‘my family said I was a professional student’ because of his school-hopping.

One of his professors at CSUN recommended him for a job at the Daily News in 1961, where he worked as a police reporter and eventually was promoted to city editor, night city editor and assistant editor.

‘In my era, you did not (need) to have a college degree,’ he said. ‘They liked what I did and I moved up the line.’

In 1976, he ‘ended up being the person who brought in computers into the newsroom,’ he said. ‘Some people were extremely enthusiastic (and for some) it was like pulling teeth. A couple of people ended up retiring,’ he said.

Prior to his interest in journalism, Handt wanted to be ‘a car designer, a trumpet player, a minister, who knows what!’ he said. He described himself as ‘one of those kids with four eyes and glasses with their noes two inches from the paper.’

He took his first journalism class in high school during his senior year to fulfill his elective requirements.

‘I was kind of a rebel type and I liked to write,’ he said. He would write his friends’ papers and his English teacher tried to persuade him to put his skills to use by joining the school newspaper. ‘Well, I didn’t want to do that,’ he said.

The journalism elective class ignited his passion to work in the field, he said, and he loved the course so much that he enrolled in the journalism department when he went on to community college. Eventually, after his stints at CSUN and Berkeley, he was awarded a fellowship to Stanford University.

‘Really deep down, I wish that I had continued and actually got the sheepskin,’ he said. If anything, Handt said he would encourage students to ‘study hard and be disciplined.’ He recalls a friend whom he had served with in the National Guard who eventually became a district attorney.

‘This guy was the most disciplined person I had ever met, he would study ‘x’ number of hours and we would go get a hamburger and (he would return to studying),’ said Handt.

‘Well, I don’t think I was that disciplined,’ he joked, adding, ‘It would have been nice to have that little diploma on the wall.’

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