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.