Regional campus newsletter turns into online student paper

Julianna Frantz

The Eastern Flash sprouted last spring as a student-run online newspaper for Kent State’s two Columbiana county regional campuses, East Liverpool and Salem. After about a year, the online news source has really started to blossom.

Anthony Underwood, student services director for the Columbiana county campuses, said the newspaper serves as an avenue for students to hone their professional and technical writing skills, while creating something that will serve as a community building block.

That was a good draw for Matthew Stewart, the Eastern Flash faculty adviser. Stewart used to work for The Review and The Morning Journal, newspapers in Columbiana county .

He sees it as a great way to get students involved.

“When Underwood approached me last year about turning a faculty/staff online newsletter into a student-run news source, I immediately said ‘yes’ because I knew it would be a good project,” Stewart, an English instructor, said.

The Eastern Flash has four student staff members. Melody Gustafson is the managing editor, while Allison Brookes, Heather Burnham and Sonia Gillingham contribute as either writers or photographers. Gustafson is the only paid staffer, receiving a small scholarship for her leadership on the Eastern Flash, Stewart said.

“Without Melody, there would be no Eastern Flash,” Stewart said. “Although we’ve had several students come and go, Melody has been there since day one and has worked very hard to keep the publication going.”

Gustafson, managing editor and junior English major, said she believes journalists are the eyes and ears of the people.

“The Eastern Flash is a hub of campus information, and I hope it will become more popular,” Gustafson said. “Right now, our existence is far from common knowledge around campus, but I’m going to change that. As a presenter of news, I provide a public service.”

Underwood said many of the articles offer the quality of writing found in professional newspapers.

“I believe that professor Matthew Stewart and editor Melody Gustafson and her writing staff have done an exceptional job,” Underwood said. He likes how the paper combines “honest investigative pieces with magazine-like community features that serve the dual purpose of being the people’s watchdog and providing ‘social cement'”.

All involved would like to see the Eastern Flash grow.

Underwood said he would like to see more students sign up to be writers and photographers for the newspaper. While Stewart agrees, he is also looking for involvement beyond that.

“As the publication grows and becomes more and more relevant to the Columbiana county regional campus community, I’d like to see students and faculty from other disciplines get involved – particularly technology people,” Stewart said. “We need someone with Web mastering and design skills who can take on the challenge of developing and maintaining the Eastern Flash Web site.”

Stewart said that the hope is to go beyond text and photos and move into video and audio.

“The key is getting students involved in those areas,” Stewart said.

Heather Burnham, staff writer and pre-nursing major, said writing for the Eastern Flash has nothing to do with her major, but having a voice and being exposed to things she wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to has been an awesome experience.

Allison Brookes, a freshman planning to major in photojournalism and transfer to the main campus in the fall, said working for the Eastern Flash has helped her gain important knowledge.

“I know [it] will help me down the road in my career path,” Brookes said.

Stewart said that in January the university gave the Eastern Flash office space and a computer.

“Beyond giving students a place to meet and work, it also lets those involved know that the university recognizes and supports what they’re doing, and that’s very important,” Stewart said.

The Eastern Flash is available online at

Contact regional campuses reporter Julianna Frantz at [email protected].