The format and style of Opus has changed many times throughout its history. The 1970s the publications name was briefly changed to The Stockton Ferry. In a 1998 interview, the late emeritus Professor [Godfrey Tanner]] explained that:
"[The Stockton Ferry was] the brainchild of James Beisers and his co-editor who were into drug reform. The idea being that readers would be encouraged to take short trips after reading its contents."
A special edition of the magazine, released in 2002, and edited by BA graduate Matthew Glenn Ward commemorated the life of Godfrey Tanner, a prominent classics professor at the university who had died that year.
In 2000, under the editorship of Matthew Thompson and Renae Carlson, Opus reaffirmed its 'diversity' by venturing into the world of pornography. Although the editors tried to philosophically explain away Opus's level of nudity with an essay, they could not avert the attention of the Office of Film and Literature Classification. Despite the subsequent need for students to show proof of age before obtaining a copy, the relevant edition of Opus was well received with "two thousand issues snapped up just like that."
Opus takes its name from the former Newcastle City motto, finis coronat opus which is Latin for "completion crowns the work".
In 2007 and 2008 there were four issues of Opus, including a special orientation week edition at the start of the year. 2007 was the first year Opus was published in full colour. In 2008, the magazine was a 60 page full colour A4 size. The design and layout of 2008 is generally considered to be the best Opus has ever looked.
2008 saw the continuation of Ask Maud, a section started by 2007's editor Tim Nash. Assuming the persona of a conservative elderly female, Nash encouraged students to submit questions that he would then answer. Schubert and Dixon continued this, however it should be noted that for the whole year they never received a genuine letter.
Schubert and Dixon also started an astrology section, which they aimed to make as ludicrous as possible. Some "predictions" are painstakingly precise, and others extremely morbid. Some focus around predicting the sexual activity of the star sign.
In 2008, Schubert and Dixon attempted to bring more humour and satire to Opus, steering away from the often poorly constructed essays of previous years. Dixon published a four page serial comic of "Sydney the Loveable Tramp" in each issue of the year, while Schubert regularly contributed pieces of satire designed to replicate real world situations. Examples include mock ads for CityRail and mock screen grabs of the Today Tonight website.
The implementation of voluntary student unionism in 2006 had a significant impact on the viability of student newspapers across Australia, compulsory student union membership fees having been the major source of income for most. Opus has been able to continue publishing despite the new law.
Opus is edited by media officers elected by NUSA members to a one-year term. The office-bearers for 2008 are Steven Schubert and Ivan Dixon. Nick Rippon and Sarah Simpson were elected uncontested as media officers for 2009. A quasi-tradition has emerged since 2007 of one co-media officer being a journalism student, and one a design student. Given the demands for all of these skills, such a combination is well suited to Opus.
The National Student and Emerging Media Conference, bringing together student media makers from around Australia, is held each year in the magazine's home city.