A new beginning: Journalism at Chemeketa returns this Fall
By Matthew Skog
Journalism once again has a home at Chemeketa.
After a year of uncertainty, journalism courses and the college newspaper are set to return in the
fall term of 2016. Kevin Smith, an instructor with Chemeketa’s English Department, will lead the recently revived
To Smith, journalism is more than a handful of classes. “If somebody doesn’t care about the news, that’s their problem,” he said. “I strongly believe that news, from a variety of sources, is essential to the functioning of a true democracy. Without the Fourth Estate, we don’t have watchmen to hold our public officials accountable.
“We need a new generation of reporters.”
This year was the first time in decades that journalism courses were unavailable at Chemeketa. The program went into hiatus with the departure of instructor William Florence, who led the program for 22 years before retiring in June of 2015.
“The college was in a transition period,” Smith said. “The journalism courses weren’t offered this year because there was no one to teach them.” After the college’s efforts to find a replacement fell short, Smith was offered the position. The decision was made that “given the circumstances, it was better to have someone take over to fill in the holes immediately,” Smith said. “The most logical way to do that… was to reassign me to teach the journalism courses and serve as the faculty adviser to the newspaper.
“I think I complained enough times that these things weren’t being done that they eventually just said, ‘Here, you do it.’ “I’m happy to do it. I think it’ll be exciting.”
Smith said that while he intends to respect the decades of work that came before him, readers of The Courier can also expect a new approach to the college newspaper.
“There’s a grand tradition of this newspaper,” he said. “It’s been around as long as the college. I don’t see the newspaper as a part of the PR arm of the college, and I don’t consider the newspaper’s beat to just be the college. We’re part of a larger community. We’re situated in the state capital – this is where a lot of important decisions are being hammered out and fought over just down the road, decisions that affect all of us, students and faculty alike. “To me, that’s a part of our beat.”
Smith also hopes to expand the Courier’s online presence. “I want to revamp the website,” he said. “I hope to expand it with multimedia content. It’s the voice of the students, and I want to expand it.”
Smith said that anyone interested in working on the newspaper is welcome to sign up for JNL215, the Publications Lab.
In addition to reviving the newspaper, Smith said that the college’s journalism courses will be returning with a new addition to the lineup. “The courses are coming back,” he said. “The Publications Lab will be year-round. Newswriting will be in the fall, and Intro to Mass Communication will be in the winter. I’m also developing a new class called Multimedia Journalism for spring term, which will involve video and audio and have a stronger emphasis on publishing on digital platforms.”
Smith said he wanted students to understand the importance of journalism in our society. “If you’re not reading the news, if you’re not engaged with it, you’re not participating in American culture in the way that you should be,” he said.
“The Courier should be an essential part of that engagement. It’s the news that’s the closest to you. It should be relevant to you.”