MADRAS — Central Oregon Community College’s student newspaper might not be dead yet.
President Shirley Metcalf wants to see if the college can continue publishing its 65-year-old paper, The Broadside, according to an email she sent to faculty members. At Wednesday’s COCC Board of Directors meeting at the college’s Madras branch, a group of faculty members and a student voiced their support for the paper.
“In this time we’re living in now, a silencing of student voices is not something we should be going down the road of,” said math professor Kathy Smith.
The college announced on July 18 The Broadside wouldn’t return for the 2018-19 school year. The reasons for shuttering the paper included minuscule readership and shrinking staff levels, according to COCC spokesman Ron Paradis.
However, in an email sent to staff on Aug. 12 by Metcalf, she indicated a desire to discuss the possibility of reopening The Broadside after receiving “considerable input from faculty, staff and students,” as well as from alumni and the community.
“The Broadside has been published for 65 years and has served as an incubator for students interested in pursuing journalism and having a connection to our college,” Metcalf wrote. “It is important that COCC’s commitment to publish the Broadside continue — if any practical means for doing so can be found.”
Many of the staff who spoke Wednesday night in support of The Broadside were upset at the timing of the shutdown announcement: in the summer, when most faculty and staff weren’t present.
Journalism instructor and former Broadside adviser Cathy Carroll told the board The Broadside is “so much more than a program for journalists.”
“It goes right to the heart of the mission of COCC, which is to create concerned, engaged citizens,” she said Wednesday. “It’s through something like a college newspaper that you learn how to be informed and engaged in your community.”
One issue the college had with The Broadside, according to documents distributed at the board meeting, is that the paper “yielded no stories that show journalistic depth” over the past few years. Humanities professor Tony Russell told the board this wasn’t a solid reason to stop publication.
“I’m a pretty dang good writing teacher, and I haven’t produced any Bill Shakespeares,” he said. “And I don’t think that I’ve produced a lot of high-journalistic anything for freshman and sophomores. And that’s OK, that’s not what this is about. This is about teaching them to get to a point where they can get to that (level of quality).”
During the board meeting, Dean of Student and Enrollment Services Alicia Moore said she, Metcalf and other staff would look into the submitted comments, see if they can come up with a plan to preserve the Broadside, and hopefully present another recommendation regarding the newspaper’s future at the at the board’s Oct. 10 meeting at COCC’s Redmond campus.
Moore clarifed the group might stick with the administration’s original decision and keep the paper closed.
To operate The Broadside, COCC paid a part-time adviser $39,000 in salary and benefits, and $35,000 per year from student fees went toward operations, Paradis said. The paper’s staff had shrunk to 10 students, who handled editing, sales, photography and reporting.
In February, COCC created a task force of seven people representing school administration, faculty and the Broadside Publications Board, which was created to investigate whether or not to continue the paper. According to the task force recommendation, a 2014 COCC survey found that more than half the school’s students didn’t know there was a student paper, and only 7 percent read it consistently.
The group attempted to survey housing students this year, but only eight responded, including four who said they didn’t read The Broadside.
The task force recommended to the administration that The Broadside adviser’s salary should go toward an adjunct faculty member who would teach journalism classes at COCC.
Anyone writing for the paper would need to enroll in a one-credit journalism lab, and any editor would have to either be enrolled in or have completed a three-credit journalism class. The administration rejected this recommendation.
Classes for COCC students begin Sept. 24.
—Reporter: 541-617-7854; firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: This article has been corrected. The original version misstated the compensation for the Broadside advisor, due to incorrect information provided to The Bulletin. The advisor makes $39,000 in salary and benefits. The Bulletin regrets the error.