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Editorial – A farewell letter from Editor-in-Chief Matthew Skog

It’s been a long four years.

I’ve personally covered everything at this college from career fairs and donation drives to heartbreaking features and earth shattering news. I’ve seen up close the people of Chemeketa at their very best and at their very worst.

I’ve put an indescribable amount of time and energy into the Courier, and I’m going to miss it. But it’s time for me to hand the reigns over to the next generation of reporters and editors.

I joined the Publications Lab in the winter term of 2014. I had the honor of learning how to write and report from my friend and former instructor Bill Florence. I climbed my way through the ranks up to the position of News Editor. But at the end of spring term 2015, Bill retired. With no one lined up to take his place, the future of the Courier was uncertain.

But I wasn’t about to let it die. Journalism is too important to just let fade away.

Through the kindness of Yesica Navarro, Manuel Guerra, the Design OP team, Don Brase, and presumably a good deal of behind the scenes support from the President’s Office, I was able to put out a weekly two-page paper we called the Courier Brief from the fall term of 2015 through the spring term of 2016. It was an incredibly difficult challenge. As the only official reporter for the Brief, I often found myself writing two stories a week and struggling to find enough content to fill the next edition. But I never missed a deadline. Thankfully I had the occasional relief of stories submitted by one of my former reporters, Josh Wood, and despite being retired, the guidance of Bill Florence. I couldn’t have done it without all of you. Thank you.

Under the guidance of the new journalism instructor, Kevin Smith, I’ve grown and honed my skills even further. At the beginning of the fall term of 2016, I was entrusted with the position of Editor-in-Chief. I’ve watched a staff of novices grow into quality reporters in their own right, and I have no doubt that they’re ready to take on the challenge.

Thank you to everyone who has read my work throughout the years. Thank you to everyone who has put up with my interview requests, my chronic tardiness, and my difficult questions. I sincerely appreciate it. I hope that the kindness you’ve all shown me will be extended to my successors as well.

But before you turn to the sudoku, there is one last thing I’d like to talk to you about: journalism.

Simply put, democracy dies without journalism. The founders of our country knew this. That’s why they thought it was important enough to enshrine freedom of the press in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Without a free press, the citizens of our nation cannot make informed decisions. Without the ability to make informed decisions, there is no freedom.

Our nation functions because of a delicate system of checks and balances, and like it or not, the news media is a crucial part of that system.

I know that some of the criticisms levied against the news media these days are justified. Sometimes we get things wrong. Journalists are just as imperfect as any other human being. But simply dismissing any news stories or facts that don’t line up with your own preconceived notions as “fake news” is self-destructive.

That’s not to say that fake news isn’t a real problem though. Fake news has been around for a long time, it just used to be called something else: propaganda. Through the rise of social media, propaganda has seen something of a resurgence, and we humans are just as susceptible to it now as we ever were. We’re constantly being exposed to it. Anyone these days can build a website, make up an outrageous story, share it on social media, and watch it spread like wildfire. We’re being manipulated. Our ignorance and our fears are being stoked and preyed upon by a variety of entities, be they corporations or private individuals looking to exploit us for profit, or even foreign governments trying to erode democracy itself.

This isn’t about politics. Ignorance is non-partisan. There’s nothing wrong with holding conservative views, or liberal views, or being somewhere in between. Ignorance is spreading like a virus, and only a free press can cure it.

But where can those of us willing to take on the burden of fighting back through real journalism go anymore? Young would-be journalists need a place to learn about and explore their trade. Most public K-12 schools dismantled their school newspapers long ago when budgets tightened. And no one in their right mind is going to spend the tens of thousands of dollars a year to attend a four-year university just to give journalism a try.

I firmly believe that community colleges are the only sensible option left. If the constitutional protection of the free press was intended to be a bulwark against the erosion of the freedoms that we hold dear, then community colleges like Chemeketa may be democracy’s last real hope.

Journalism needs your support. Without it, that bulwark may crumble and fade away.