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Students protest newspaper's demise

COC officials move ahead with new media division

Posted: September 21, 2009 10:13 p.m.
Updated: September 22, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
College of the Canyons' decision to eliminate the print version of its student newspaper, replace it with a Web site and change the makeup of the journalism program has drawn the ire of current and former students.

"If they're not going to bring the journalism program back, they're losing a student," said 18-year-old COC student Ashley Juhasz.

Juhasz attended COC on the recommendation of her Golden Valley High School journalism instructor.

"That's the only reason I went (to COC)," she said.

In August, college officials canceled five journalism classes and put the award-winning Canyon Call student newspaper on hiatus, citing low enrollment.

Committee approval
The changes reportedly represent a transition into the college's media entertainment arts, a new division that is expected to replace the current radio, television and film program.

Community college officials said the shift to an online-only product was intended to provide students with an up-to-date journalism education.

"I honestly believe that with this new media journalism track, the students are going to get a much better, well-rounded approach to journalism in general," said David Brill, media entertainment arts and radio television and film instructor.

Brill has worked as an on-air sports anchor in South Dakota. He earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Colorado and for the past 11 years has been a freelance sports producer for ABC, he said.

The new media curriculum was approved by the COC curriculum committee. Pending state approval, students will be able to earn an associate's degree in new media journalism in fall 2010.

The new media entertainment arts' film classes have already been approved and have been offered for the current fall semester.

Beginning newswriting
Among the courses passed through the college's curriculum committee are Media Entertainment Arts 110, which is writing for journalism and new media, and Media Entertainment Arts 113, exploring online media communication. That class will replace the current Journalism 105, beginning newswriting.

A Media Entertainment Arts 225 class will be the advanced news media production class for broadcast and print journalism students, he said.

"(Students) are still going to be able to write," he said. "They're writing for an online media delivery as opposed to on-ground delivery."

Since print and broadcast journalism differ, Brill said the courses will differentiate the news delivery styles.

Students will be able apply their skills by writing stories and creating videos, he said.

Real-world preparation
COC's decision to change the journalism program has led to criticism from a coalition of concerned students, educators, journalists and private citizens who want to save the Canyon Call and its journalism program.

"As the former sports editor of the Canyon Call and as a sports writer at The Signal, I know how important it is for students to have a First Amendment voice on campus," said Craig Leener, creator of www.SavetheCanyonCall.com.

By Friday afternoon, more than 100 people had signed the online petition demanding that the Canyon Call come back.

Working on a student newspaper allowed Leener to understand the importance of meeting deadlines and of journalism ethics, he said.

"It essentially prepares students for what it's like out there in the real world," he said.

Until the transition to the media entertainment arts division is complete, the seven students who would have signed up for Canyon Call production classes are in Brill's Advanced TV Production class, he said.

Work in progress
The would-be Canyon Call and Cougar News students, 27 in total, together produce content for the online publication, www.cougarnews.wordpress.com, Brill said.

Brill sees the Web site as a work in progress.

In the meantime, Juhasz said she's been meeting with an academic counselor and is considering transferring to another community college.

"There's no point in my staying here," she said.

While Juhasz said she'll write for an online newspaper, she would rather have a print product.

"I love newspapers. I always have," she said. "I think it's part of history. It's a part of everyone's lives, whether they admit it or not."

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