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.

One comment

  1. Your numbers on the decline of community college newspapers in California are depressing. For me, the value of education didn’t register until I joined the Fresno City College Rampage circa 1970. On college publications is where journalism is really learned. Thanks for the insight.

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