Light & Verity

The News, renewed

Julie Brown

Julie Brown

Paul Needham ’11 in the News' boardroom. View full image

The Yale Daily News building needed renovation. There was no doubt about it. But the last straw—and the perfect way to illustrate a fund-raising pitch—was the leak that was dripping wet plaster onto the portrait of the building's namesake, Timemagazine cofounder Briton Hadden '20, in the News' hallowed boardroom.

That leak was just one of a long list of things that needed fixing in the charming but neglected neo-Gothic building, which was built for the newspaper by Hadden's Time partner, Henry Luce '20, in 1932. The wiring was by no means adequate for a twenty-first-century newspaper, the newsroom layout was cramped and outdated, and the paper needed a multimedia studio a lot more than it needed those darkrooms in the basement. The only trouble was that with leadership changing hands annually, and the building in constant use for nine months of the year, who had the time to raise the money, make plans, and execute them?

Enter Paul Needham '11, a two-year veteran of the paper who had worked in construction for two summers and in the architectural office of Robert A. M. Stern '65MArch, dean of the School of Architecture, for another summer. When Needham was elected editor of the News last October, he says, he knew what had to be done: "I felt like if I didn't do the building, nobody would."

In addition to going to class and putting out a newspaper every day, Needham became the fund-raiser, client, and troubleshooter for the renovation, finding an architect and coming up with a vision for how the building could work more efficiently. Along the way, he wowed people with his energy and organization. "As clients go, Paul is at the top of the list in so many ways," says John Apicella of Studio ABK in New Haven, architects for the project. "You'd have no idea he's 21 years old. He's a natural leader."

Needham says he quietly raised the money for the project—he won't say how much—from about two dozen alumni and friends of the News, including three anonymous donors who together paid more than half the bill. With the money in hand, he and the architects devised a plan that could be implemented over the summer.

Walls came down on the second floor to turn three rooms into one large newsroom and a multimedia studio where the Newscan record video interviews. The darkrooms in the basement became a kitchen and lounge where staffers can unwind and refuel. (Needham says the kitchen will pay for itself in reduced Starbucks bills in three months.)

Lighting—key for a building used mostly at night—was improved throughout. And the third-floor boardroom, an elegant vaulted hall where twice-daily editors' meetings are held, was discreetly equipped with a video screen and other technology to become what Needham calls "the most state-of-the-art conference room at Yale."

"We didn't want to be fancy, and this renovation is not fancy by Yale standards, but we wanted to be respectful of what I think is one of Yale's splendid buildings," says Needham.

And of course: Briton Hadden's portrait got a good cleaning. 

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