Budget cuts have led to the Ventura County Community College District (VCCCD) cutting funds allocated to their district-wide, student-run news publication, forcing its newspaper staff to rely solely on publishing their work online beginning this semester.
The paper edition of the Student Voice, which served as the collective biweekly newspaper for Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura colleges, used to be printed by the Ventura County Star.
Joanna Miller, student news media adviser to the Student Voice for eight years and journalism professor at Moorpark College, said that she didn’t find out about the district’s decision until the week prior to the start of this semester.
“While I didn’t see it coming, I was aware of continuing and deepening budget cuts across the campus and the district,” she said in a phone interview.
It cost the VCCCD $15,000 annually to produce the print edition for the Student Voice, according to Miller.
“They’re still quite supporting the program,” she said. “It’s just the print budget. The college still funds [everything else].”
The move to cut funding for the print paper affects the way Miller now teaches her staff class.
“Students don’t get the experience of working on a publication for print. There are other ways to work around it, like using PDFs, but it’s not the same,” she said. “Our goal now is to be even more immediate. Students did have the tendency to wait for the print edition.”
The district’s decision also directly affects the staff members of the Student Voice.
“I miss seeing my articles printed, handing the paper out to people, and watching people read them,” Student Voice Editor-in-Chief C. Alex Biersch said over the phone. “But, we’re making the best out of the situation.”
Though Biersch admits that it’s been a struggle to work with more pressing time allotments, he does think there are some advantages to being an online-only publication.
“Our readers look for instant gratification,” he said. “And online is more current and immediate.”
Mary Mazzocco, president of the Journalism Association of Community Colleges, doesn’t think that being an online-only news publication is necessarily a good thing.
“It’s a shame,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s my experience that even though students prefer electronic, they like to pick up a campus paper. The print edition is what they read, not the website.”
Though she admits that the move doesn’t surprise her, she still hopes that this will not end up being permanent.
“At a time when colleges are looking at every nickel and dime, it’s not surprising at all,” she said. “We’re in an unusually harsh climate. I hope the district can restore [the print edition of the Student Voice] at the earliest possible time.”
Moorpark’s journalism department isn’t the only department that is feeling the ramifications of the ongoing budget crisis, according to Miller.
In fact, the VCCCD is in the position of cutting an additional $5 million from Moorpark’s budget, she said.
Moorpark is also currently reviewing its program policy, with academic departments such as interior design and criminal justice on the table for discontinuation, according to Miller.
“They’ve been even more severely affected,” she said.
The last time the journalism programs in VCCCD have been affected by a budget crisis was in 2005, when the journalism programs inOxnardandVenturacolleges were eliminated.
Moorpark’s program then became district-wide, and the three colleges were forced to share the Student Voice. Staff classes have since been taught in all three campuses through video conferences.