Open Letter to the Students of Mendocio College Regarding the McLelland Journalism Proposal

To: ASMC and all Mendocino College students
From the Staff of the Mendocino College Eagle

Dear ASMC and students of Mendocino College:

The Eagle staff has discussed the McLelland journalism proposal.

A. We support the proposal from Nancy McLelland to the extent that:

1) There SHOULD be a formal "instructional" journalism program. We have been operating with minimal support from the college for too long, and welcome a wider, better funded program.

2) There SHOULD be classes set aside for the writing and production of the Eagle.

However, beyond this general agreement, we feel that the college community is better served by continuing to follow the Principles of Operation and the Canons of Community College Journalism (copies available at the Eagle office) which were adopted on March 17, 1997 by Vice President, Don Vasconcellos, Dean of Instruction, Susan Bell, Academic Senate President, Sue Blundell, and Eagle advisors, Dale Glaser and King Collins.

There are other areas which need to be clarified:

B. McLelland's proposal states that "Our goal is a college newspaper written, produced and managed solely by students."

The Eagle staff totally supports the idea that students should be primarily involved in all aspects of the paper. Certainly we agree that the editor will be a student; in addition, we feel that the editor must be bound by certain guidelines which encompass the following considerations:

1. Since there is no other college-wide publication for comment by members of the college community, input should be solicited and welcomed from all members of the college community. The Eagle Principles of Operation, which have already been agreed to, state that the Eagle is dedicated to "Foster(ing) critical thinking, dialog and analysis by students, faculty and staff." It follows, of course, that the Eagle staff must not be limited to those who are enrolled in the journalism class.

2. Quoting from the Canons, "Community College newspapers and magazines are primarily information sources and public forums of their college communities." It is in the tradition of college newspapers, in fact of all quality newspapers, to look for and support the critical discussion (dialog) which is the root of all intellectual community. That discussion should not exclude any members of the college community.

The "Resolution for an Open Publication" is to underscore this essential point (brought before the Board on Oct. 7, 1997, and soon to be before the Academic Senate).

C. With regard to other concerns we have, please note the following:

1. Any advisors to the Eagle should see their job as one of affirming the principles of open dialog and communication. The current staff feels that students are best served by being participants in a forum of many voices, where old and young, experienced and inexperienced, mingle in an environment of informal mentoring, typical of on-the-job learning.

2. The advisor's job then is one of helping to facilitate a balance of input, from the formal curriculum, from the voluntary input, and from job training categories.

3. Regarding the "interdisciplinary" aspects of the college newspaper: the coordinating or advisory committee to the Eagle should be composed of representatives from political sciences, English, and Communications departments on the writing side, and from graphic arts, desktop publishing and business departments on the production side.

4. There need be no contradiction between the paper as a community forum and the paper as a didactic tool. In fact, the support of the paper from its new "accreditation" would work hand in hand with its continuing relevancy as a true newspaper for the College Community.

5. The proposal makes no mention of the Eagle web site, which we consider to be as important as the printed version of the newspaper. The web site must be considered an integral part of the print version, and should have its link to the official Mendocino College web site restored.

6. The existing staff are firm believers in investigative reporting. Investigative reporting must be taught and pursued with the same vigor as it has in the current paper. "A good publication reports and comments on those events and ideas which it deems significant or of interest to its readers....The college publication has the right to criticize, to question and to evaluate....Constructive criticism, thoughtfully prepared and fairly presented, is basic to freedom of the community college press." (Canons)

D. Finally, we should like to raise some procedural concerns, namely:

1. The existing staff must be acknowledged and incorporated into the "new" Eagle.

2. Editorial and other decisions should be developed, as they now are, by a consensual process between advisor(s) and staff within the guidelines we are delineating here.

3. The journalism proposal should clearly indicate how writing and production will be coordinated.

4. The Eagle staff recommends that the journalism program take full advantage of the distance learning opportunities now available from many colleges and universities throughout the world via the internet. Mendocino College students can receive credit through such classes and apply for scholarships. (See the Eagle web site for more information on this topic).

5. It should be assumed that college governance issues (ie. AB 1725 and "shared governance") will continue to be a major concern for the new staff.

6. To the extent needed to address these issues and to make amendments to the McLelland proposal, there should be discussion in a community forum and other deliberative bodies of the college.

7. AND, this should happen before the new Eagle is launched.

For the Mendocino College Eagle staff,

Marya Legrand


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