Seventh East Press

Several denizens of the Bloggernacle were heavily involved in The Student Review, an independent student newspaper that once existed, and has been reborn, at BYU. Those of us who are a little older fondly recall the Review’s antecedent, the Seventh East Press.

The 7EP ran in 29 issues from October 1981 through April 1983. It was initiated by two BYU grad students, Ron Priddis and Anthony Schmitt, to be an alernative voice for BYU faculty and students. The name derives from the location of the paper’s offices, at 839 North 700 East in Provo.[1]

The students who put the paper together had been involved in creating the “Open Door Guide to BYU.” (I still remember candidates for student government running under the “Open Door” banner.) Virtually all who worked for the paper were volunteers, and virtually none had prior journalism experience. Of course, money was always tight; Ron started the paper by selling his car for $1,700. Ron prevailed upon Elbert Peck to become the first editor of the paper (many of you will remember Elbert from his later Sunstone days).

As one might imagine, meeting deadlines was always a struggle, with stories often completed mere hours before they were typeset. Most paste-up sessions lasted all night. They printed 5,000 copy runs; the first of which they eventually completely sold, although it took the rest of the semester to sell them all. In later issues, what they couldn’t sell they would use for promotional material.

Advertisers were hard to come by, and often were offended by the paper’s content and dropped out (such as when Deseret Industries pulled their advertising in the wake of the homosexuality series).

The paper also championed numerous causes, such as the ASBYU Constitutional Convention, Peace Week, Amnesty International, Food for Poland, and the American Red Cross Blood Drive.

In February of 1983, the paper ran Blake Ostler’s infamous interview with Sterling McMurrin, in which he made his famous statement to the effect that angels don’t give books to young boys.[2] The reaction was swift–the paper was kicked off of campus, which became its death knell. Only three more issues (including a Daily Universe parody issue) were published before it had to shutter its doors (with $7.00 left in its bank account).

One of the most beloved regular features was a recurring column called “Grey Matters” written by Gary James Bergera, in which he gave overviews of theological issues (really in a way that would be common in the Mormon blogosphere today, but which was ground breaking at the time). Two of Gary’s columns were reprinted in Dialogue a Journal of Mormon Thought, and may be read here.

During its life, the paper’s greatest support came from faculty and those not involved with the university. Staff members were discouraged by the lack of strong student support.

I recall sitting in my New Testament class when the professor asked who had heard of the 7EP. I was the only one to raise my hand, and my impression was that most of the class genuinely had not even heard of the paper.

My little brother was at BYU briefly, and he wrote a comic strip for the 7EP, called “Fysh.” It was about a guy with long hair who hung out at BYU but was not actually a student. I’m biased, but I thought it was pretty clever stuff.

What memories do you have of the 7EP?

Note: Most of the information in this blog post derives from the register of the 7EP collection in the BYU Special Collections authored by Chad Orton in February, 1984. You may read the entire Register here.

[1] The paper was almost named The Crab, with a masthead featuring a caricature of a crab wearing glasses.

[2] The McMurrin interview was reprinted in expanded format in Dialogue, here.

Comments

  1. Julie M. Smith says:

    Thanks for the link to that interview; I hadn’t seen it before.

    Best line: “I am really not disillusioned because I was
    never illusioned in the first place.”

  2. Kevin, Thanks for the tour through the past, and also for your kind words. It’s hard to believe all that occurred thirty years ago. “Grey Matters” was a blast to pull together every week or so (more often than not from one of the classrooms at the MTC where, for a time, I taught Gospel Doctrine classes on Sunday and French the rest of the week). I have mostly very fond memories of working for the “Press.”

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Gary, I was hoping you would see this and comment. I looked at some of the old columns to refresh my recollection, and you did some seriously excellent work.

  4. I was a regular reader and don’t think I missed an issue. It felt great picking up something that was not ‘preapproved’ for consumption. My roommates and I would share it with glee whenever it came out. I did not know the people that worked on it, but from the reader’s end it was a wonderful thing maybe even a necessary thing.

  5. The 7EP run coincides almost exactly with my mission. I couldn’t have seen it regularly, yet I remember having seen it. Maybe I picked up a copy during an MTC P-Day trip to campus.

    Was McMurrin always as grumpy as he sounds in that interview?

  6. “I greatly admire President Holland’s decision to allow your news-
    paper on the BYU campus. This is a very good thing, and I hope that if you
    print this interview, it will not be seen as a violation of the trust he and others
    have placed in the Seventh East Press”

  7. I fondly remember one byline to an article: “A Change of Pace by Bruce R. Mc Honkie.” It didn’t go over so well.

  8. Frere Bergera’s Sunday School lessons were the highlight of my MTC experience. He seemed pretty sharp so I threw him a question about the Gnostics in a New Testament lesson, which, after a long pause, he deftly sidestepped.

  9. My best memory is of the Food for Poland drive. I think I still have one of the pin-on buttons they made for it. One of my classmates was heavily involved in it.
    I also remember the parody issue, and how upset the Bullock and Losee people were that their company was renamed “Polack and Lousy.” It wasn’t that the 7EP didn’t like them, it was that their name was an easy target.

  10. Didn’t go to BYU and never heard of 7EP before someone mentioned it on the bloggernacle years ago. But, I did pick up a full set of these a couple years ago. (Well, nearly full set — doesn’t include the parody of The Daily Universe.) It is full of great stuff. Hard to believe, in some ways, that it came from BYU. But then again, where else could it have possibly come from?

  11. Randy B.’s comment highlights the intramural nature of this kind of publication. I remember thumbing through a few Sunstones in the ’80s and coming away feeling that, as one for whom terms like “the Avenues” and “Sugarhouse” didn’t evoke any feelings, I wasn’t the target audience. Such a thing requires some amount of cultural mass to react with/against.

  12. Is there or has there been an effort to digitize the complete run of 7EP? I’d be interested in helping with such a project.

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m not aware of any such digitization effort, Tod, but it would be a great thing if someone would do it.

  14. I remember 7EP and Ron Priddis. I think they were allowed to distribute on campus for a while and even the bookstore but then they were banned. I was in law school when it was around, but I worked at the Universe as an undergrad and I thought the parody was great.

  15. Left Field says:

    I don’t think I had read that McMurrin interview since it appeared in the 7EP, but I remember it well. I loved his comments about the baptismal font at the Salt Lake visitors’ center. I really disliked that display as well. Taken in context, there was nothing in that interview that ought to have had any repercussions for the 7EP.

    However unorthodox, McMurrin was Mormon through and through. I am confident that he would have nothing but disdain for the shallow criticisms (involving such words as “magic underwear,” “planets,” “Satan’s brother,” or “cult”) the church experiences today from intellectual lightweights from both the left and the right. McMurrin’s critique of the church was always informed, thoughtful, and well-reasoned. The church needs more critics like McMurrin. Facile and uninformed ridicule from Jeffress, Maher, and their ilk don’t merit anyone’s notice.

  16. It felt great picking up something that was not ‘preapproved’ for consumption.

    I also understand The Daily Universe has a list of forbidden subjects. It was sold at the BYU Bookstore, until the end.

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