The third question
This article was preceded yesterday by another in which nine former Chemeketa journalism students answered a series of questions which began with, “How did being in the Chemeketa Journalism program impact you,” and, “Are there any skills or things you learned in journalism and have taken with you in life after Chemeketa?” This is the third question.
What is your opinion on Chemeketa choosing to eliminate the journalism program?
(Disclaimer: We are aware that the college has stated to us that journalism is not an official program and that the college strongly disagrees with some of the word choices our former editors use. We will touch on this in another piece soon.)
Nolan Good, a former Editor-in-Chief of The Courier said, “I think it’s terrible. I think it’s a bad choice. The journalism program has not just been instrumental for a few people, I think it’s been instrumental for many people…And also, student papers are in a really important position because, community colleges in particular, but also large colleges, are not the kind of places that get the same kind of focus on reporting as anything else that happens in the city. Any local paper might not have the time or the interest in the goings-on bureaucratically or administrationally at a place like Chemeketa, but the students who go to Chemeketa are very much affected by it and benefit a great deal from [having] someone who does report on that. And in that sense, having their peers at a paper is invaluable. Even if it weren’t for the paper and it was only the journalism program…these are really, really important skills, and the community college is a great place to learn what you want to do before you know what you want to do. With that option revoked, you might have people like me who would otherwise really enjoy a career in journalism but would never know that’s something they wanted to do and would go into a higher-risk place like UO where you have to be a little bit more selective with what you’re doing and just not end up trying it out. It would be a shame.”
Jenaro Ramirez, a former photo editor of The Courier said, “I’m really sad. I don’t know about the underlying reasons so I can’t be too upset. We really are in kind of a different world and I understand that journalism isn’t one of their focuses in a pandemic-Zoom-teaching environment. That being said, though, I really enjoyed my time at Chemeketa doing The Courier. It’s how I met people. Even though it is a community college, the community part of Chemeketa is really lacking, but I did find it with The Courier.”
Jarret Whitenack, a former senior editor of The Courier responded with, “I am disappointed, quite disappointed. It was like a little family there, and every time we’d get a new batch of students, I feel like they’d join the family and we’d always give them a place to be themselves while still learning and doing schoolwork. It is very disappointing that they got rid of that community at school. On top of that, they’re trying to get rid of the newspaper or trying to give it to the school itself to run, which is a little weird when they’re reporting on the school. I’m disappointed in the administration for doing that.”
Dylan Umsted, the digital editor of The Courier since 2017 said, “I have a slightly complicated opinion about it. I am mostly thinking that it is a mistake. I understand the position that the college is in with the budget crises that continue to happen at the college. But on the other hand, I have also seen that students who have participated in this program have gone on to do great things, even if it’s not necessarily in the same field. We’ve had a reporter who was hired by NBC Sports, a major network, right out of this program…that is a remarkable opportunity. They are throwing that away by canceling the program.
“I also think that the college is big enough that it really has a need for a student newspaper. It needs to have ways of keeping students engaged. And also it is a big enough institution that it needs people reporting on it, and that includes the good and the bad things they do. That applies to any public institution, but especially a college. I also think that this may be motivated by the fact that we are not always reporting on things that are not necessarily something people react positively to about the college. So if we report on a budget or layoffs, we are not trying to spin that as good or bad, that’s not our role. Other people will react to it. If they react in a way that they think it is bad, well, that’s how they’re going to react to it. Regardless, we are the messenger, not the message…And by shutting down this program, or at least transfer it to a position that may be under the more strict control of the administration, they’re silencing that avenue, they’re silencing what media is for, which is for informing the public and ensuring accountability, whether it’s good or bad…But if we can’t report on that, if no one in the future is able to report on that, then who is going to hold the college and its administration accountable if they do something wrong? I’m not even saying that they’re necessarily doing anything wrong right now, just that we need to be able to have people who are regularly engaged on campus who know people who are here that do not have an employment relationship with the college, who can write effectively, and investigate objectively about it. The student paper does that.”
Montana Langford, a former multimedia editor of The Courier said, “I don’t know enough about the circumstances that are surrounding Chemeketa and The Courier right now, but I think that it’s generally a bad move to do anything that can even be seen as silencing the press because freedom of speech and freedom of the press are core staples of our first amendment. It is our right, not only as students but as Americans to make ourselves heard. Especially when it’s not just our opinions, you know? Everyone has a right to have their opinions heard, but I think that it is not only a right but a duty, for people to report on what is happening in current events locally, nationally, it doesn’t matter. I think as long as the stories are being told straight, they should not be silenced in any way. I think something even as simple as removing funding can be misconstrued as having more sinister implications behind it, or sinister motivations. And even if it doesn’t, it’s just not cool. It can be seen as censorship. But in any case, it is taking away a class that is extremely dedicated to their work and a professor who is extremely dedicated to his work. It is essentially taking away not only their hobby but their livelihood. I don’t think that’s okay.”
Lauren Murphy, a former Editor-in-Chief of The Courier said, “Usually I take a very hard stance with journalism. It is important, and even if students don’t want to be journalists, it teaches them how to talk to authority figures, it teaches them how to talk to strangers, it’s good. But given everything that this year has been, I get it. Enrollment is ridiculously low and the world is ending. In spring term [the first remote term due to COVID-19] it was really difficult to do journalism, it didn’t teach them the same skills…It makes me sad because journalism is important…but on the other hand, the world is ending.”
Michael Eubanks, a former Editor-in-Chief of The Courier answered, “Honestly, I am really sad to hear that because I think it is so strange that a school as big as Chemeketa would not have any journalism program. There are much smaller schools that have very detailed student-oriented media organizations and for Chemeketa to really have nothing, I just find that very sad. I feel like Chemeketa students are going to miss out on a great opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people and maybe even find a new calling in life…The Courier really helped me to pursue my dream, and for someone else to not have that opportunity is just really sad.”
Chris Ward, a former multimedia editor of The Courier said, “I think it’s really unfortunate. It seems like it’s part of a larger thing that is happening throughout the United States. Just the fact that another newspaper closes down, even if it was a student paper, it still did important work. And the fact that it’s the college that’s shutting it down, they’re the ones turning it into whatever it’s going to be, I don’t know. I just think it’s really, really unfortunate.”
Megan Stewart, a former Editor-in-Chief of The Courier responded with, “It makes me very sad, it was just a great community. And maybe not everyone felt that way, but I felt like it was a place that everyone could just kind of nerd out and pursue stories that they found interesting and that they were passionate about. I felt like it was a little family and no matter who we were or where we came from, everyone just came together and bonded, and I really enjoyed that…It’s really sad that we don’t have that option anymore. I also think it’s really sad that we don’t have a free press now at Chemeketa, I think that every school should have one. Like any other society, a school is like a mini-society in itself. There’s going to be corruption, there’s going to be things going on that people need to know about, things that we need to address or challenge people about. I feel like students are the ones who can get away with that more often than staff members. I feel like by eliminating this paper, we are eliminating that kind of communication and a way to talk about important issues. That’s what I’m most sad about, is the loss of free communication and free speech and free press. I feel like even at George Fox, where I attend currently…no one wants to talk, it’s really hard to hold administrators and the school accountable, but it’s going to be especially harder to do that without a paper at Chemeketa.”
After each interview, I invited each person to share any additional thoughts. While I felt it would not be ethical to interview my current fellow editors or myself, I gave them the opportunity to share their thoughts, as well as my own.
Throughout my [the author’s] time at Chemeketa, I have been through some of the most traumatic events of my life so far. I stayed with The Courier the entire time. This newspaper is what kept me going, it was my family and my support. For the past three years of my involvement with The Courier, I have made friends and connections that I can’t imagine not having now. I have learned invaluable skills that I apply to many facets of my life, not just writing and reporting. While my writing career may be done at Chemeketa, I plan to keep writing for the rest of my life. This class taught me that as a journalist, it is not my job to pick a side or to even quote both sides, it is to find the truth and share it. In the world we live in now, the truth is more important than ever.
Matthew Skog, former Editor-in-Chief: “The fact that so many Courier staff members are either pursuing journalism degrees, aspiring to work as journalists, or have jumped straight from their time with The Courier to working as professional journalists just blows my mind. I’ve had doubts that any of this was worthwhile. I’ve caught myself wondering why we bothered keeping The Courier alive before. But to see the ripples of how our actions affected so many people, to know that so many future journalists came through the revived Courier, to know that the sacrifice was worth it… I couldn’t ask for anything more. Democracy only dies in darkness if reporters like us give up on holding those with power accountable. Keep fighting the good fight, everyone.”
Kaitlyn Wimmer, current co-Editor-in-Chief: “I honestly think I have a somewhat unique perspective on the situation. A lot of us senior staff have experienced some of the same things that one or two-term reporters might not have. The experience of passing off knowledge and honing your skills long-term in that particular environment was really unique, as well as wondering if the class would be canceled due to low enrollment next term. It was a reality we students had already seen with other courses and programs; with the budget in the state it was and still is, anything could happen if the courses weren’t attracting enough students. Not only were we collaborating and team building, but we also worked on layout designs, solidifying our personal and professional ethics, familiarizing ourselves with new grammar and punctuation rules and investigative journalism. We were constantly trying to bring new students into the program and show them how incredible it was. The students worked together constantly in the JNL courses because it was what we would do in any other newsroom. It was more like on-the-job training, in Publications Lab especially. That list is only part of what I learned in that program. I also learned that changing the world around me is difficult, but my peers and I are astoundingly capable of doing so. Thank you to everyone, and our advisor, it has been the most surprising journey working with all of you.”
Megan Stewart: “I think that students should be invested. I know that we don’t have a class anymore, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be pursued by students…I have seen the power of the individual in action when it comes to reporting news. Just because we don’t have a stable community for this does not mean we can’t make one again, maybe just independently with students. I feel like as long as there’s a passion there and a drive to do it, I feel like it’s not impossible to start it up again somehow. We just need some dedicated people invested. I think it’s very important to have a paper. We are a very justice-oriented generation and I think that it’s something that would appeal to most people that attend Chemeketa, and they should consider getting involved in some way.”
Lauren Murphy: “I know that newspapers aren’t the coolest thing in the world, but if the paper ever makes a comeback, pick it up and read it. People have put so much work and effort and energy into making this thing exist. For some people, it’s their first story and it is a really big deal…and for the people we do stories on, for them, it’s a chance for someone to sit down and listen to what they have to say. I think that’s really important for a lot of people.”
Nolan Good: “They really should have given us a classroom at some point. [Editor’s note: This problem reflects the time that Nolan was enrolled at Chemeketa, we were eventually given priority use of a shared classroom and a cabinet.] This isn’t really surprising that they’re shutting down the journalism program…it’s a shame that they’ve been shaking the plug gradually out of the wall for so long.”
Jarret Whitenack: “…It is very disappointing to hear that the school is getting rid of something like that. I mean, if they got rid of band or orchestra where they also built communities and families, it would be a much bigger deal and it’s sad to see that journalism is just being swept under the rug and ignored.”
Michael Eubanks: “I am extremely sad to hear The Courier will not continue and I want to deeply ask that Chemeketa will reconsider. I need to thank Kevin Smith so much for all of his dedication through all the years. Kevin is an amazing professor, an amazing advisor, and really just an amazing guy. I can’t express how happy I am to have worked with him and to know him…I also want to say that I think The Courier really helped me land my job at NBC sports…Someone from NBC direct messaged me on Twitter and said, ‘Hey, I saw your profile and I noticed you published this article in the school newspaper. I really liked it, I know racing is something that you’re very interested in, we actually have an opening, can I call you tomorrow?’ and the rest is history. I got a job at NBC Sports because of The Courier.”
Jenaro Ramirez: “…The things that you learn [in journalism] at Chemeketa are skills that transcend…they give you technological prowess and thinking in this new era. Kevin puts a lot of emphasis on old-school reporting, but he would not be teaching classes like multimedia journalism if he didn’t believe in progressing journalists further into technology. I think that’s something unique about The Courier and it is sad to see Chemeketa not acknowledge that, to shut it down because of the situation we’re in.”
At this point, I asked Jenaro if he had anything else he wanted to add. He responded with, “Bring back The Courier.”