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Student newspaper’s final edition is coming soon

End_of_the_road_By_Bill_Florence_#2 April 27, 2015

By Matthew Skog – Courier Photo

The end of the Spring term also will mark the end of a Chemeketa tradition – the college newspaper.

For nearly as long as the college itself has existed, the Chemeketa Courier and its predecessors have brought students the campus news.

But the pending retirement of its instructor and the subsequent restructuring of the journalism program means that the final edition will come during the last week of the term.

“The student newspaper has been in continuous operation from the inception of the college,” Bill Florence, the journalism instructor, said. “It originally was called Smoke Signals; then it became the Courier 4 and finally the Courier.”

Despite the end of the student newspaper, Don Brase, the college’s dean of Humanities and Communications, said the journalism department would return.

“We don’t plan to end the program,” he said. “We’re trying to look at what’s the next phase for it. New media, social media – we’re debating that. So we don’t have the position going away; we actually have it on hold.

“Once we decide what the curriculum is going to look like, then we can decide what kind of position we recruit for. Those are ongoing discussions.”

Brase said that while this change marks the end of an era in one way, it also serves as an exciting transition in another.

“With journalism, it’s more a matter of transitioning into something and figuring out what that something is so we can get up to speed on it,” he said. “We don’t want to lose it, but we want to move it into something that makes sense for modern readers.”

Brase also said that while the Courier likely won’t return as a physical newspaper, it may return in a different format.

“It probably means some type of electronic publication, like blogs or social media – things that you’d find on websites,” he said. “That does mean, though, that the printed paper is going to be phased out. If there’s a publication in the future, it’s going to be online.”

Brase said that a decline in enrollment and the journalism curriculum at area universities also were factors that the college has considered during the transition.

In spite of these factors, former Chemeketa journalism students are finding success and employment using the skills taught in the journalism program.

Matt Rawlings, a former Courier reporter and editor, credits much of his success to the journalism program and its instructor.

“Bill Florence and the Chemeketa journalism program has helped me immensely with honing my writing style and skills,” Rawlings said. “I came in to Chemeketa three years ago as a guy who loved sports and wanting to work in sports media. The program has helped me be able to write for several publications, such as the Statesman Journal and Oregon Sports News.

“I’m definitely disappointed that the program is going away because I have seen and worked with people that the program has helped immensely with their career path.”

Jim Eustrom, the college’s vice president of Instruction and Student Services, said administrators were working to ensure that journalism classes and some form of the Courier would return as soon as possible.

“My hope is that it isn’t a full year,” he said.

“Our intent is that there has to be a student voice, a student publication. We want an academic curriculum that’s really vibrant and that’s really preparing people for the world.”

While Brase said the college intended to have the journalism program running again as quickly as possible, there wasn’t a plan in place in the absence of the Courier to keep students informed about news events in and around campus.

“I don’t have an answer to that,” he said. “There isn’t a plan. This is all just kind of happening, and that’s a real loss.”

While the format may be changing, Florence is confident that quality journalism is just as relevant now as it ever has been.

“There will always be a place for journalism, even if the delivery system differs,” he said. “From the printed page, to the internet, to social media, there will always be a demand for clear communication. The skills that it takes to present news will be taught by someone. If students can’t get it in one place, they’ll find another place to get it.”

Florence, a former newspaper reporter and editor, has been at Chemeketa for 21 years.

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