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Student newspaper classes cancelled at COC

Officials say enrollment in journalism courses too low

Posted: August 8, 2009 7:55 p.m.
Updated: August 9, 2009 4:55 a.m.
College of the Canyons has canceled five journalism classes for the fall semester and will turn its student newspaper into a club, officials said last week.

"We're not just canceling journalism," said Mitjl Capet, COC's assistant superintendent/vice president of instruction. "We look at anything that's in single digits" in terms of enrollment.

"If we close (low-enrolled classes), we have more funds to open classes in impacted areas."

The community college is facing a budget crisis due to severe state funding cuts.

Journalism 115, Feature Article Writing, Journalism 205, Advanced News Reporting and Production, Journalism 220, Newspaper Editing and Production, Journalism 260, Newspaper Photography, and Journalism 265, Photojournalism: The Photo Story, have been canceled due to low enrollment, said Alberto Lopez, instructional support coordinator at College of the Canyons.

The classes all contribute to the writing, photography and production of the Canyon Call, the college's award-winning student newspaper.

Rather than existing as the product of academic classes, the Canyon Call will become more of a club, Capet said.

David Brill, department chair of radio, television and film, will take over as the student newspaper's adviser, Capet said. Whether the Canyon Call will appear in print only or have an online presence will be decided by students and faculty as the fall semester starts Aug. 24, he said.

Jim Ruebsamen, who just retired as Canyon Call adviser, was unaware of the cancellations.

"As I am retiring, I am totally out of the loop," he said. "These changes that were made were made without my knowledge, without my consultation," he said.

Ruebsamen acknowledged the classes' low enrollment.

"Traditionally speaking, journalism classes at most community colleges are low enrolled," he said.

Bruce McFarland found Journalism 220, Newspaper Editing and Production, canceled when he registered for classes last week.

He joined the paper during the spring semester and soon became photo editor of the Canyon Call, he said.

Working at the student newspaper opened McFarland up to journalism.

"I felt that (Ruebsamen) gave me a lot of insight on what newspapers are looking for," he said.

Ruebsamen said he's received e-mails from a few students asking about the production classes.

"I have to write back and say, ‘I don't know,'" he said.

Vimal Patel worked at the Canyon Call from January 2004 to May 2005 and became editor in chief during spring 2005.

"I never knew I wanted to be a journalist" until he worked on the Canyon Call, said 27-year-old Patel, who now writes for The Eagle, a newspaper in Bryan, Texas.

The Canyon Call became a place for Patel to practice journalism.

"I can't tell you how much I benefited," he said. "I got all my big mistakes out of the way at the Canyon Call."

McFarland enjoys seeing the newspaper being picked up by students.

"The idea that it's sitting there on racks on campus and the students put it together. (It's) sort of in your face, in a way," he said. "People will pick it up and show it to other people. You don't do that with online."

Enrollment in the student newspaper classes had dipped to 12 and 14 students, said Ruebsamen, a former Los Angeles Herald-Examiner photographer. In past years, the staff numbered closer to 30.

Melissa Lalum, adviser and publisher of the Daily Sundial student newspaper at California State University Northridge, said changes at the Canyon Call come as all student media everywhere takes a step back to reflect on the products they are creating to serve their student bodies.

Since she arrived at CSUN last year, Lalum said, the student newspaper has been able to move forward with a Web site and mobile media.

"In a year, we've made incredible strides," she said.

Now the paper appears on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

"I teach my students to be all-format journalists," she said.

This summer, the Daily Sundial went to online-only publication.

"While there's an audience there, they were consuming it from home (or) on their smart phones," she said.

Finding the right path for student media will remain the ultimate challenge.

"Print still has a place, whether it's on a college campus or in society in general," she said. "(We) have to be smart in how (we're) doing it."

The cancellation of Canyon Call classes comes as COC officials have considered a merge of the journalism program into a new "media entertainment arts" department that would include Cougar News, the student-run television network, along with the Canyon Call, Capet said.

The college is still working on the curriculum changes and has yet to go to the state chancellor's office for approval, he said.

Having an online version of the Canyon Call would allow the COC community to read stories online while having access to links of Cougar News, he said.

"We're going to be unveiling this whole new department," Capet said. "Radio, television, animation, journalism, all in one."

The expansion of Mentry Hall, which would house the media arts department, will make way for technology and equipment upgrades, which would be part of the new curriculum.

"It seemed like the right thing to do," he said.

The changes are also to the benefit of students, he said.

"We want all the curriculum to reflect the work world as it is now," he said.


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