Because of budget cuts and the retirement of an instructor, the journalism program at Merced College was canceled a few years ago. Last semester, Victor Smith, a part-time English instructor, was approached by a few students with the desire of bringing a newspaper back to campus.
Victor was determined to help the students and was instrumental in the formation of the "Journalism Club." In order to establish a new club, one member must attend eight consecutive ASMC meetings, formulate a constitution and recruit membership. As the adviser, Victor attended the meetings, created a constitution and recruited a few students and fellow faculty member, Melissa Rocha. Victor was given permission to set up shop in the old journalism office, complete with computers, photography equipment, a tape recorder, a printer and a phone.
I naturally tend to gravitate to new enterprises, and as a graphic designer, I joined the club to help with the layout/design. Much to my surprise, I was nominated and accepted the position of editor. As club members we gathered newsworthy articles, photos and press releases. With financial assistance from the administration we were able to print and distribute two issues of "The Blue Devil Report" last semester.
We have more than 10 students on staff this semester and printed the first issue last week. As a club, we were granted the former newspaper's fund, yet due to the high cost of full-color printing, we printed a limited number of hard copies to distribute around campus. (Some of us old-timers just need to feel a paper copy in our hands.) We are able to reach the entire college community now with the click of a mouse. An electronic version is submitted and an announcement and link are sent through the campus email system for everyone to view and enjoy.
The club attended a media seminar last Saturday at UC Merced. The staff of the Prodigy, UC Merced's newspaper, hosted the invitation only event. We were warmly welcomed and the keynote speaker was the Sun-Star's editor, Mike Tharp. Mike shared his love of the newspaper business and provided many insights about how to uncover newsworthy stories.
The most difficult part of the day was deciding which two workshops to attend; most students chose the photo/layout and writing/editing sessions.
Since UC Merced is fairly new, we learned about the difficulties and struggles they experienced with establishing a newspaper on their new campus. Starting with a few students and a dedicated adviser, they now have a large team including reporters, photographers, editors and a layout staff. It's encouraging that we have extended our network of contacts to include the Prodigy staff. The workshop information has been uploaded to a website, and we can log into the website and review all of the information that was presented during the seminar.
On behalf of the staff of the Blue Devil Report, I would like to extend our thanks to the Prodigy staff, their adviser and Mike Tharp for their professionalism and knowledge they shared with us. I would also like to especially thank Victor Smith for his dedication to the students. Merced College students collectively have a voice again, due to one man with one goal and the will to make it happen.
Cynthia Blackmore is editor of Merced College's Blue Devil Report and a continuing transfer student at the college.