In the 1980s, a newspaper called Sun Star was established at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The paper hadn’t gained much traction or community involvement, so they decided to rebrand themselves as Polaris News. They made the change in the summer of 2019 and have also transitioned to being a completely virtual newspaper.
Ronnie Houchin has been an adviser to Polaris News since 2018.
“At that point, there wasn’t a publication. The Sun Star has lost a lot of readership and tons of awareness. It was hard to recruit people to write for the paper,” Houchin said.
Houchin said that the decision to rebrand was due to a lack of engagement and a round of budget cuts that slashed their workforce to keep the paper running.
“It was hard to see students who were really passionate about journalism and making sure our community and our student body in particular, were informed on what’s happening on campus,” Houchin said.
When asked about how they came up with the name Polaris, Houchin said that they got the name through an open house they had in early 2019. He said that people could put Post-it Notes on a wall with what they thought the new name should be. A student who was padding by came up with the name and now it’s here to stick.
“We combined our radio station, KSUA, and Sun Star into one media organization,” Houchin said.
Now, the newspaper is less about reporting on news and more about creating a new media outlet for UAF students to share their voices.
“My main hope is that people get more involved with Polaris,” Houchin said.
Robin Ellis is the news director at Polaris. They started working for the Sun Star in 2016, the new changes have been an exciting venture for Ellis.
“Just keeping the awareness [of Polaris] alive is definitely the hardest part,” Ellis said.
Ellis hopes that students will realize that Polaris is a new way to have their voice be heard in the UAF community.
“The biggest thing I hope [will change] is that [Polaris] will bring more people and more perspectives that the Sun Star didn’t really highlight before,” Ellis said.