Preston’s Perspective: Collegiate Press Still Has Value

I was recently thinking about the demise of print journalism; even though I will attend the Collegiate Media Association conference, the largest of its kind, at the end of October. The collegiate press has not died; it has simply taken shape through a more tech-savvy format.

Fall 2013 was a transitioning period for the San Jacinto Times. At first thought, the student publication was going to be online only, but after a second glance it remained in print, in addition to launching a brand new website for the Times.

One year later, though, the Times went exclusively online and has remained so since. Blame it on evolving mass media, blame it on budget cuts, or blame it on whomever you wish. But, there is still value in a collegiate press.

Across the country, journalism students have uncovered massive scandals at colleges and universities. A Penn State student was the first to report what became the Sandusky scandal. Jerry Sandusky was a former assistant coach for the Penn State football program accused of sexually abusing children. Because of this, Sandusky was tried and convicted, and head coach Joe Paterno was fired from Penn State University.

Though nothing quite like this has happened at San Jac, the Times has been available to all students of the San Jacinto College District since three separate campus papers merged into one in 1990. Many students have passed through the program, some for a semester, and some for years.

No, the writers are not perfect. But for first-semester journalism students, many of which do not have a journalistic background to start with, this is where they are supposed to make their mistakes. The writers try to get the most accurate information and be timely in doing so.

It’s important to note, this is one of the few programs that treats an academic class like a real-world experience. There are deadlines. Length requirements. Sources to find. Interviews to conduct. Pictures to take. Professional appearance to maintain. In the end, it all gets packaged into the final product for publication. And that’s only the first month of class.

For the most part, the Times features stories that showcase the things going on around campus, but the Times is not here to be a public relations firm that gives the school good press only. Sometimes, the school will get bad press too. But, that is the nature of the business. Holding people accountable for their actions, and asking questions when something smells fishy, and using our first amendment rights in doing so.

The program, like many around the country at different colleges and universities, is a building block for many different career paths. The deadlines teach students to hold themselves accountable, and the stories they write give them writing samples to put in their portfolios.

In addition, while some students struggle to make it through “the basics,” my right-hand woman and Co-Editor-in-chief interns with the Roula & Ryan Show in the nation’s sixth largest radio market. Other students in the program have also landed internships with CBS radio, as well as KRBE.

I am proud to be part of a great organization, representing this college. My job for the past year, and an additional semester separate from this stint has been to be a voice for students at San Jac. Sometimes it isn’t a walk in the park but it is something that I love to do, and it beats the hell out of just “getting my basics.”