So Long, Shasta College Lance

It’s a sad day for community college journalism. The Shasta Collage Lance won’t be published this semester. The class that produces it, Newspaper Production, has been cancelled.

What’s significant about the loss of this course is that first, it’s the foundation newspaper production lab that supplies talent to feeder journalism programs, such as those at CSU, Chico, and Humboldt State University. Second, without a journalism-based campus newspaper, there’s no coverage of the college, which is a a great source of information, not to mention a wonderful training grounding for budding journalists.

On a personal note, I am a product of Shasta College’s journalism program. I earned my AA in Journalism from Shasta College in 1992, and transferred to CSU, Chico’s journalism program. The two years at Shasta College were formative and memorable.

With great fondness I recall Peter Berkow as our journalism advisor, who taught many of the journalism courses, and Greg Clark, my photojournalism instructor, who was also the former Record Searchlight managing editor, and one of the best bosses I ever had. The experience was invaluable. I covered a stabbing, and lots of student government and administration goings ons,  and I cut my teeth on my first opinion column, a really sappy “he/said, she/said” series that I’d feel embarrassed to claim today.

I clearly remember that my first story assignment was about the school’s lost-and-found box. To his day I remember my lead had something to do with a Virgin Mary key chain. Those must have been the glory years. We had a great editorial and advertising staff, and our class won all kinds of contests. We went on field trips, and had access to inspirational speakers.

My heart goes out to the six students who’d enrolled in the course, but were turned away.  I hope they don’t give up. Journalism is still a viable occupational choice. The medium may have changed, but journalism is forever

For answers, we sought a conversation with Ralph Perrin, Dean of Shasta College Arts, Communication and Social Science.

Q: I’m writing to confirm and/or clarify information about the Shasta College Lance. I’d heard the newspaper production class has been cancelled. Is it true, and if so, why?

The enrollment in the Newspaper Production class for the Fall 2011 term was 10. This is far below the number that most colleges can afford to offer a lower-division undergraduate course. Shasta College administration chose to allow the class to continue last term, but with the understanding that the class would not be offered the next semester with such low enrollment.

The class was advertised to the college counselors and the technicians in Admission and Records. The day before the class started, the enrollment was only 10. So, the class was canceled and an attempt was made to notify all of the students by either phone or email.

Q: Historically, what have enrollment numbers been like for the newspaper production course, as well as the journalism major?

Newspaper Production has had an average enrollment of 16 on census day the last five terms and has ended with an average enrollment just under 14 students. From ’05 to ’11 just six students have been awarded an A.A. in Journalism.

Q: Does Shasta College still offer an A.A. in journalism? If so, are other classes at risk for cancellation?

Shasta College no longer has an AA in Journalism. The journalism major was discontinued a year ago, but the college did retain the journalism certificate and continues to offer classes in journalism. The Newspaper Production class is currently scheduled to be offered in the Fall of 2012.

Q: What – if any – journalism courses remain intact at Shasta College? I’m thinking of the photojournalism course, for example.

Photojournalism is currently being offered this term and two journalism classes are on the preliminary schedule for Fall 2012.

Q: Will Shasta College still have a student paper, and if so, who will produce it?

There was a meeting last term that included students from the Newspaper Production class and the Student Senate, faculty, classified personnel, and administrators. The discussion in the meeting was focused on the future of student newspaper and where it would be produced.

The recommendation was to leave the student newspaper with the Newspaper Production class unless the class had to be cancelled for low enrollment. The Student Senate president agreed to enter into a discussion with college administration to determine the details of producing a student newspaper should the Newspaper Production class be cancelled. This discussion and planning has been initiated and there should be decision before long.

Q: Does the college have any plans to maintain, as was considered a few years ago during budget cuts, a solely online newspaper?

One of discussion items for the future of a student newspaper is to deliver the newspaper in an electronic format.

Q: Do you have any information about other California community colleges and the health of their student newspapers?

According to two student newspaper advisors that were contacted last Fall, most colleges are examining new ways to effectively and efficiently produce and deliver student newspapers.

Q: What kinds of reactions are you hearing from staff and students as they learn of this decision?

I have received comments from three students who were enrolled in the course before it was cancelled. Their concerns were two-fold. Firstly, one of the students wanted to make sure she was still on track to receive a certificate in journalism. None of the students were planning on receiving this award this Spring. So, the cancellation of Newspaper Production was not placing them in jeopardy of receiving their certificate on time.

Secondly, they had all planned on being involved with the production of the student newspaper and they were hoping to get class credit for their efforts. It was suggested that they talk to leaders in the Student Senate to volunteer their advice and energies for the student newspaper. Unfortunately, the development of the student newspaper cannot be part of a class for credit this term.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about this topic?

Shasta College administration is very committed to support the students in their desire to have a student newspaper and is currently working with student leaders in the development of a feasible plan.

Journalism classes are still being scheduled and offered, but like all classes, they must achieve a minimum enrollment each term.

Thanks so much.

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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12 Responses

  1. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    That's sad. I remember the Lance fondly from the 1970s. Some of the students producing it went on to careers in journalism.

    I am curious about why so few have enrolled – and is it the same with other junior colleges? Is this a local trend, or part of a larger movement away from degrees in journalism?

  2. Avatar rmv says:

    🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 S C '58 & '59

    GOD BLESS AMERICA (and her children!) 🙂

  3. Avatar VICKIE says:

    Photojournalism class at Shasta College remains? Does this mean visual communications are more important than written communications? What happened to in-depth reporting? Asking questions? Basic curiousity for the "rest of the story"? Digging for the story behind the story?

    • It's about enrollment numbers. Enough students have enrolled in the photojournalism class to keep it alive.

      I might also add that photojournalists are journalists. Their stories are expressed visually, but they are professionals trained to collect information to accompany those images.

      As an aside, traditional media is in flux.

      IMO, journalism's future will depend upon journalists' ability to do it all … backpack journalism, if you will … and their tools are tiny and portable and don't require a whole newsroom.

      We are proof of that here on anewscafe.com, where a reporter can shoot video and photos, write the story, submit it electronically and post it before a printing press could even get out of bed.

      🙂

  4. Avatar Barbara Cross says:

    We are sorry to hear of the end of the "Lance" . Our son was one of the very fortunate students to have had Virgina at Enterprise High School for Journalism and then he and several others went on to Shasta College (1977-79) and had Journalism under the outstanding teacher, Eldridge Trott – before going on to Fresno St for his BA. Those were exceptional days! Our son worked on the newspaper at Enterprise High as well as The Lance at Shasta College. Publishing a newspaper gives important experiences to those pursuing a career in journalism as well as a terrific means of communication for the campus. Hopefully those students will be able to enroll in "the Lance" next Semester.

    Barbara

  5. Avatar Terry says:

    I think you're right on the money, Doni. The future of journalism appears to be a "backpack journalism", where the journalist does it all. And since it also seems to me that more and more "newspapers" are online, I'm hoping that the Lance becomes an online paper to teach Shasta College students the ins and outs of online journalism. It could be quite a news service – emailing updates, tweeting, and more!

  6. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Hi Doni this is truly sad news, but reflects the way the nation is headed in getting their news through the internet. I still enjoy getting a newspaper and reading news on the web but would miss a paper to read.

    I too was a staffer of the Shasta College Lance in the sixtys, at the old campus which is now Shasta High School, and used the skills I learned in later years to write radio news.

    I still have several copies of The Lance from those years and look at them as memories made in my youth.

    No student Newspaper? It doesn't seem right.

  7. Avatar Janet says:

    Doni:

    I started reading the Lance when you were writing and then editing. It has never been as good.

  8. The death of the Shasta College Lance is more than a sad turn of academic number cruching.  It also shames the newspaper industry.

    I first walked into the Lance office in 1969, looking for an easy class to take while the Army recruiter arranged for the helicopter training I sought.  Considering the intensity of the Vietnam War and my laughable lack of coordination, Eldridge Trott may have saved my life by first welcoming me with his big west Texas grin and then immediately putting me to work.

    I did not return the recruiter's calls.  Trott and the Shasta College Lance made me a journalist.

    After serving as a reporter, editor and manager for newspapers from Oregon to Texas, I took my news experience to the classroom.  I taught a term at Shasta College before I earned my Ph.D. I now serve at the world's oldest and most famous journalism school at the University of Missouri.  

    As proud as we are of the Mizzou reputation, we don't always serve our profession and our public as well as did Shasta College.

    I may never see in my my classes the son of a mailman and a waitress that I was. University educations come at university prices.  Only a community college's low fees, a part-time job and living at home offered me the alternative to Army barracks.  Less than 30% of Americans have four-year college degrees.  The profession demands that journalists be in that group.  That class divide means we are unlike the vast majority of our audience and growing more so as the cost of education rises.

    The fact that Trott put me in the journalistic trenches as an 18-year-old freshman is also a blessed anomaly of the community college.  At the big J-schools, students don't experience the newsroom until they are juniors with all the prerequisites satisfied.  That means we miss those starry-eyed kids fresh from high school who are filled with the passion to write.  By the time they are juniors, many who would have made their mark in journalism have drifted off to English, business or (God forbid) pre-law, where writing skill also is appreciated.

    I don't blame the  administrators of Shasta College for cutting a program with only a handful of students.  Colleges big and small are running on financial fumes.

    But I do fault the newspapers in Northern California for failing to see the Lance as the bargain it was.  For a few relatively cheap scholarships, a handful of summer jobs and — most importantly — an enthusiastic connection to the working-class youth of their communities, they could have easily filled the Lance's staff box.  Some of these would have gone on to bigger schools, but others would have taken their skills to the community newspapers at which my students turn their noses.  Given the assurance that they would indeed be appreciated, the community college journalists would have helped the media see with more than single-class vision.

    I should have bought Apple stock in the 1990s.  And newspapers should have invested their attention in the Shasta College Lance.

  9. Avatar Susy says:

    No Shasta College Lance, now that is a drag!

    My own experience as a reporter and photojournalist for the community college newspaper was also very memorable and exciting.

    Janet O'Neill was our adviser in newspaper production, as well as newswriting and reporting. I really appreciated her desire to let the students make decisions for their paper. These were special memories for me and I still have my portfolio, which I had a lot of fun making as my final project.

    Likewise, Greg Clark was our most excellent, albeit hard-nosed photojournalism instructor. In addition, I believe he also served as our adviser for newswriting and reporting one semester. And it was you Doni, who Greg brought in for us to interview. Thank you for being such a good sport!

    Oh, I really did love those journalism classes… and I am one of the six who was awarded their Journalism degree from Shasta College, according to the statistics reported above since 2005. I received mine May 23, 2008 and am grateful for the experiences, as well as the degree!

    Thanks Doni for reminiscing!

    My heart is sad to see the Journalism department dwindle to simple classes like the newswriting and photojournalism. For me, without the production of the newspaper so much of the experience is taken away for the student.

  10. Avatar James Kemp says:

    I got my AA from Shasta College in Journalism and cut my teeth as Editor and Chief and Sports Editor on the Lance. I earned my Degree in May of 2011 and our instructor was Craig Harrington who has a passion for the field of Journalism. Our class was only two days a week and it suffered, because the school would not offer us the support that we wanted at times or asked for. They kept moving our stands around and not putting them back, we were bringing back more previous issues when we would put out the news ones. Our job was made harder by the school as journalist. I miss that class a lot, I changed the paper from a joke at one point to be relevant again and now it shows that all that hard work was wasted in a sense.