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December 27, 2009: A progress report and some unanswered questions

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It is quiet now on the campus of College of the Canyons as the school has gone into hibernation for the holiday break. The break provides an opportunity for this web site to reflect on the events of recent months and update readers on what lies ahead.

As of this writing, the Canyon Call, the college’s student newspaper established in 1969 when the school first opened its doors, appears to be dead and buried. As far as we know, school administration has no plans to bring it back. That has put the responsibility of providing a student voice on campus squarely on the shoulders of the newly created Media Entertainment Arts Department.

Cougar News, MEA’s online student publication that essentially replaced the Canyon Call, continued to make progress during the fall 2009 semester. That’s certainly a positive development in a situation that was best described as bleak in early August when news of the Canyon Call’s demise was first reported in The Signal.

MEA Department Chair David Brill, in a Sept. 25 meeting with a representative from the coalition to save the Canyon Call, said he had plans to transform Cougars News into a more comprehensive news site, a process he projected would likely be completed during the winter break. We believe this will involve a much-needed shift to software specifically designed for publishing an online student newspaper.

Beyond this, we are optimistic that the transformation of Cougar News will include the addition on an Opinion section, something that went out the window when COC administration pulled the plug on the Canyon Call.

During the September meeting, Brill offered his take on the role of an Opinion section at Cougar News: “I believe that you have to have a responsible Opinion section, and that’s our goal. It’s a valuable part of the education process, questioning ideas, decisions, questioning things that are happening politically. I’m not afraid of students actually expressing their opinion, but to do so with responsibility and respect.”

This web site intends to monitor the progress MEA makes in launching an Opinion section.

The most frequent question we receive from readers is whether we believe COC administration’s decision to shutter the Canyon Call was politically motivated.

That’s a tough one.

The Canyon Call has a well-documented history of expressing points of view critical of college administrators and the board of trustees. It would not be inaccurate to say that the Canyon Call was frequently a thorn in the side of college officials.

So, was the Canyon Call’s critical stance on Measure M in the fall of 2006 the beginning of the end for the newspaper? Did college officials conveniently drop the newspaper in the name of budget cuts and low enrollment? Are those same officials powerful enough to have creatively found a way to allow the newspaper to continue?

It’s doubtful we’ll ever know.

What we do know, however, is the loss of the Canyon Call has done immeasurable harm to the school, its students and the local community. Whether Cougar News can fill the void and provide students with the same sense of community the Canyon Call once did remains to be seen. In a perfect journalism world, print and online versions walk hand-in-hand.

The winter term begins Jan. 4. The spring semester commences Feb. 8. The ball is squarely in MEA’s court.

Click here to sign the online petition to save the Canyon Call.

Click here to join our Facebook group.

Number of days COC has been without a school newspaper: 126

2 comments

1 Anonymous { 02.21.10 at 5:14 pm }

It’s sad to see the abolishment of the Canyon Call. However, speaking as one of the former wtriters [sic] for the paper, it was long over due. It was one of the worse college newspapers ever.

2 admin { 02.25.10 at 2:28 am }

The numerous awards given to the Canyon Call and its student journalists in recent years are in stark conflict with your statement. In fact, in the past decade alone, Canyon Call student journalists have won more than 100 “Place” awards from the Journalism Association of Community Colleges.

(Note: Place awards are 1st through 4th places. Canyon Call student journalists earned another 100-plus Honorable Mention awards and, more importantly, the newspaper itself garnered 5 General Excellence awards in that timeframe.)

But beyond all of the awards, it’s important to keep in mind that college newspapers are essentially laboratories where students can make mistakes and learn the trade. To call the Canyon Call one of the worst newspapers ever, even in the face of ample evidence to the contrary, simply serves to reinforce this point.