The Journal first appeared on campus on October 25, 1873 as the Queen's College Journal, a fortnightly magazine whose objective was to "foster a literary taste among students" as well as function as a forum for the discussion of university affairs between members of the university, both in Kingston and alumni located elsewhere.
It published a great deal of verse in its early years, and its prevailing tone was earnest and evangelical: typical articles were "Longevity and Work," "What is Preaching?" and "The Formation of Habits." There were also numerous verbatim reports of sermons and speeches. By the mid-1880s, however, debates on purely college issues and columns of college jokes were finding a home in the Journal’s pages. This caused serious deliberation about the nature of the Journal as subscribers who had financially supported it in its infancy, and were no longer on campus, wanted the focus of the newspaper to be broad and not campus-centric. With a growing student body however, that was capable of financially supporting the paper, the needs of the alumni were relegated to the backburner and the familiar news, sports, and entertainment sections emerged.
During the golden years of Queen's football in the 1920s, when the team won three straight Grey Cups, the paper predominantly turned its focus to sports and other sections were relegated to the inside pages.
The Queen's Journal existed in roughly the same format from the 1930s until 2013, publishing two issues every week during the academic year, with a few issues being produced in the summer months. There were a few departures from this format.
In the mid-1980s, the paper introduced computers for writing and layout and in 2013, changes were made to adapt to the digital delivery of content. The 40 issue production schedule was adapted to accommodate for the release of one digital issue and one print issue per week. In 2015 the Journal dissolved the twice-weekly publication of issues, opting instead to release digital content throughout the week in addition to one weekly print issue. The Journal is partly funded by the Alma Mater Society of Queen’s University but run by an independent editorial board.