On 16th Street in Greeley stands an old, run-down building. Going in, it feels like walking into an abandoned building. Papers from years past are scattered all over the desks and forgotten food from previous employees is left on tables, untouched in years. It’s like a museum, everything left behind so that visitors can see what life was like before. Even though it looks abandoned, this building houses The Mirror.
In the past decade, The Mirror’s staff has dwindled from a busy newsroom to two editors who run the publication by themselves.
The Mirror is the student-run publication at the University of Northern Colorado. It started in 1919, when the school was better known as Colorado State Teachers College.
For over a century, The Mirror has been publishing at UNC. With that much history comes a lot of changes, including moving to different locations.
The Mirror first had its roots in Guggenheim Hall, but with the creation of the University Center in 1965, it soon moved over.
While at the University Center, The Mirror office was filled with a loud, wild, busy team. One member of the team at this time was Matt Lubich, the current general manager of The Mirror. Lubich attended UNC from 1981 to ’86, and he worked as a reporter at The Mirror for the same amount of time.
During Lubich’s time at The Mirror, the office was set up like bullpen, desks set side by side and facing each other. The space was filled with typewriters, and there was a sole room dedicated for designing the layout of the paper.
The Mirror, at the time, published three papers a week. With the need to cover everything on campus and around the Greeley community and the fact that there were no cell phones, the office was constantly filled with people working or just hanging out.
“People lived at The Mirror,” Lubich said. “I mean, the office was always busy. You know, five days a week there was people here.”
“It was a hub of activity.”
The Mirror lasted about two decades at the University Center, but there was an exciting new chapter in store. In 1997, The Mirror moved into its new home at 823 16th St.
The Mirror kept busy for a while. People were excited about a new place off campus where they could work and hang out. It wasn’t until around 2015 when there was a noticeable drop in staff members.
The paper started losing traction and impact on campus around 2010 with the start of a new newspaper, The UNC Connection. This paper was more of a tabloid, and it contained stories that looked more like they belonged in TMZ than The New York Times.
Before this paper started, The Mirror was higher in demand and popular around campus. One person who lived through this time is Kurt Hinkle, a former reporter and former general manager at The Mirror.
“I remember going to class at Candelaria or wherever I’d go, and people would walk by the rack and pick up the newspaper right before they walk in,” Hinkle said.
Another reason The Mirror started losing popularity was the crash of print newspapers in the early 2000s.
As the internet started skyrocketing, the appeal of a physical newspaper was going away. More newspapers started to publish stories online, and people were going to the internet for information instead of the local paper.
This loss of appeal to newspapers wasn’t noticeable at The Mirror until the large decrease in staff members in 2015.
There is a wall in The Mirror office that is dedicated to the signatures of previous employees. Every year, a new group signs, and every year since 2015, you see fewer and fewer names.
The Mirror staff has dwindled down from 20 students running the paper to two.
There are many thoughts as to why the staff has shrunk so much. One thought is that the move to an off-campus location made The Mirror feel too separated from UNC, as if it were unaffiliated with the school. Even though it is located right next to Central Campus, the fact that it is its own entity has made people less inclined to go to The Mirror.
Another thought is that the use of social media and electronics had made it easier for people not to come into the building. It is much easier to send a mass email to everyone needed than to try to find a time when everyone can come in.
Lubich said that both of these things might have contributed to the staff shortage.
“If we needed to talk about something at The Mirror, we either called each other on our phones, which were landline phones, or we were in the office,” Lubich said about his time at The Mirror as a reporter. “And that’s where all the decisions got made and all the stuff, so a part of it is just a change in atmosphere.”
While technology has played a huge role in fewer people working at The Mirror, a large reason is time.
With school and most students having to work to attend college, there is simply no time for some students to voluntarily help run a publication.
Regardless of the reason, there are concerns with The Mirror staff becoming so small. Quinn Hodge, a junior journalism major at UNC and the co-editor-in-chief at The Mirror, is concerned about what the future will look like.
“I’m afraid it’s gonna die,” Hodge said.
Hodge started at The Mirror in the fall of 2019 as an ad representative. Since then, she has worked alongside three different editors-in-chief and has worked through a pandemic.
Hodge said that she is also worried about the prospect of discontinuing the print issue of the paper. Without the print issue, Hodge is concerned that student reporters won’t send stories to The Mirror anymore. With the internet, it is easy for students to publish their own work online through blogs and social media, so Hodge said she is scared about the paper losing its appeal if it went strictly online. But, she is trying to stay hopeful.
“I think that I am a little bit scared for the future of The Mirror, but also I think that I see a brightness that can come with online publication and with the way that social media works, there are so many publications that never even printed,” Hodge said.
No one knows what the future of The Mirror will be yet. There are talks that it might become part of the journalism department, and that would mean the office would move to Candelaria Hall.
As for now, there are still only two people working for The Mirror, and with one of them graduating in May, the team is continuing to shrink.