Archive for August, 2012


Where have all the student publications gone?

August 23, 2012

I don’t want to steal thunder from a freelance reporter who contacted me yesterday about a story she hopes to pitch, but her questions contributed to my insomnia last night.

Her pitch will include a look at the loss of journalism programs in community colleges around the state of California. And her timing is important. In the last few weeks we have learned that five schools have shut down the student newspaper courses or “put them on hiatus,” which is code for “we’re shutting them down, but don’t really want to say so, so we’ll pretend we intend it to be short term.”

Those schools are:

  • Antelope Valley College
  • College of San Mateo
  • Los Angeles Harbor College (unconfirmed)
  • San Jose City College*, and
  • San Diego Miramar College

* Update 9/5/12: San Jose City College’s publication was reprieved for at least one semester.

And we don’t know if this is the end. School has not started for all community colleges and we might see a couple more get shut down at the last minute due to insufficient enrollments coupled with the devastating budget cuts community colleges have faced in recent years.

Before this year there have been cutbacks to student publications at:

  • Shasta College
  • College of the Canyons
  • Modesto College, and

Probably at a couple of other small colleges we have trouble tracking.

And then there are other colleges that have massive cuts to their operating budgets (remind you of the death of a thousand cuts?) or, like Moorpark College, practically have been forced to online only.

Worse, as I answered the reporter’s questions I said that it would not shock me to hear of another half dozen publications closing down in the next year, especially if Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure fails this November. That is an ugly enough statement, but as I later thought about which programs those might be I actually came up with a private watch list three times that size. These are programs that might be vulnerable because of budget cuts, low or lagging enrollments, and long-time instructor retirements … or a combination of those.

There are 112 community colleges in California, but in the best of times there are only about 65-70 colleges with student publications. If my watch list is any where near accurate, combined with this year’s and recent year’s cuts, that could very well mean a loss of a third or more of the student publications since the start of the recession. Ouch!

This is one reason why the California Journalism Education Coalition, a group I chair that brings together representatives from high school, community college, university and industry groups interested in journalism education, will be sponsoring a pair of regional workshops this fall with the theme of “Journalism Education Under Assault. One will be held in Sacramento in late September and the other in Northridge in mid-October.


Hard to keep up with software

August 11, 2012

I took my first high school journalism course a little more than 40 years ago and started teaching my first college-level journalism course five or six years later. Teaching sure seemed easier back then.  In addition to teaching students how to write, tell stories, take photos, design newspaper pages, and lead staffs, the types of technologies you had to teach included:

  • Manual typewriters
  • Waxers/wax pots
  • Film cameras (with flash cubes)
  • Light tables*
  • Photo sizing wheels
  • Pica poles (printer’s rulers)

Pasting up on windows
*At my community college we did not have light tables, so we taped newspaper paste-up sheets to windows so we could see the light blue gridlines that helped us line up typeset copy. That’s me on the right with the acne face.

When stories were written they were shipped off to a printer to be magically set into justified columns of type and sent back for paste-up. You placed back construction paper where you wanted photos and sent them to the printer along with the designed pages.

As I prepare for my sixteenth year of full-time teaching at Cerritos College (following nearly 17 years of full-time teaching at West Valley College in the San Jose area and four-and-a-half years of part-time teaching at Reedley and Merced colleges) I am looking at how much things have changed.

I spent the summer teaching multimedia reporting where I introduced students to a variety of multimedia storytelling techniques and tools. More than one student asked me how I knew so many software tools and how I kept track of what was needed to do what.

To help my fall newspaper students keep track of software tools we use in producing our multiple publications – print, digital, and online—I decided to put together the following visual map. It is interesting that for our print publication that we use just a few software packages: Microsoft Word, Adobe InDesign, and Adobe Photoshop. But for the online edition it seems like there are almost a couple dozen.

TM software tools
Click image for pdf

TM software tools
Click image for pdf

In addition to teaching students writing, storytelling, photography, leadership, and design, we now teach audio recording and editing, video editing we have added the technologies of:

  • Computers
  • Digital cameras
  • Video cameras
  • Digital audio recorders
  • And, soon, iPads

And then there are the software packages, from our high-end online content management system EllingtonCMS, to iMovie video editing software, to GarageBand audio editing software, to Facebook and Twitter social media platforms, to YouTube video sharing channels. And the smaller programs that help us assign stories and photos, create embeddable media, convert formats, and more.

What we teach
Click image for pdf

Yes, things are much more complex these days. Advising/teaching student publications is not for the weak.