What's up with the new Journalism Department?

The following article is excerpted from an interview with Lillian Brown and Nancy McLelland at the Garden Bakery on November 11, 1997.

By Chet Collins

Lillian Brown is the newly hired instructor for two journalism classes which will be taught next semester.

The classes that will be offered by Mendocino College are COM 100: Newspaper Production and COM 201: Writing for the Mass Media. These classes will be under Dean Susan Bell.

Lillian and Nancy McLelland are working to get these classes together and have visited Humboldt State and other colleges to look at their journalism programs.

Lillian Brown's position will be part time and she will also receive a stipend to be the "faculty advisor" for the newspaper.


Eagle (Chet Collins): Are there any books on Journalism that you recommend?

Lillian Brown: Yes, we ordered one that they use at Humboldt called Reporting for the Media. Then we will also use the Associated Press style book and libel manual. There are a couple of other ones that I may use as optional texts. One of those is When Words Collide, which is a language use guide for journalists. Journalism grammar is sometimes a little bit different from the academic English kind.

Eagle: What do you think about the Eagles last issue (25.02)?

Brown: I thought it was good. I think the newspaper needed more photos, and you did that. They were good and clear. You pointed out that you needed a sports editor. It seemed to cover a full range of topics. As far as the layout and copy editing, I could do a critique. But it was really quite good. I'm sure your team is really proud of it.

The Eagle: Yes, we thought we did a good job. Our advisor was not happy with the lack of proofing, though. We need more help on the proofing.

Brown: Yes, that's going to be hard. I see it as long term goals to get it to a perfection level. It's going to take a while.

It looked like you had a lot of people involved with it. I think a college newspaper is like a community newspaper. You need to cover all aspects, then I think people get more involved. A student newspaper is terrific, because it increases awareness and involvement of the student body.

I think they are vital for communication between the students the staff and the community at large.

Eagle: Much of the current Eagle staff thinks the Eagle Newspaper on the web is as important as the printed version. What do you think of the Eagle Web site?

Brown: I don't know too much about the web site. I don't feel that I have been hired to maintain the web site. It isn't teaching a class.

It's certainly something journalism students of today should know how to do, because all newspapers are going to web sites. We will have to see, as far as I am concerned. That's not one of my expertise levels.

My focus is going to be teaching people basic tenets, basic principles of journalism in classes, working with them on their writing. I'm not sure how it's going to work exactly with the newspaper production classes. I have talked with a lot of different instructors and it seems like they all handle it differently as far as how do you grade people.

The Eagle: How will you teach the skills of investigative reporting?

Brown: I think it's part of reporting. You identify sources and look at lots of documents. To know how to look things up at the courthouse, local governments, college districts. Knowing what things are public information and what aren't and knowing where to find them. A lot of times papers need to know how to legally get hearings and things open to the public if they are being closed.

I think what investigative reporting entails is going deeper. Going deeper than what is given to the public and hammering a way at it.

Eagle: Does this mean that it is appropriate to hammer away at the investigation of the issues that involve the Mendocino College administration, as was done with the earlier issues of the Eagle?

Brown: I think it is appropriate if there is still issues that are unresolved and if you are investigating it in terms of talking to everybody on all sides involved. To me the issues involved were kind of muddled. They involved a personnel issue, that was a review of Susan Bell's past performance, that was not really a public thing. It also involved other things. I think it is appropriate if you feel that the answers haven't been stated by the administration

Eagle: In your view is this the kind of investigative reporting appropriate for the student journalist?

Brown: Anything that is of interest to the college population, the students, the faculty and the community at large that it serves I think is appropriate.

McLelland: The newspaper is a manifestation of the basic intellectual skills of the University. That is research and critical thinking - being trained as a critical thinker to recognize logical fallacies to recognize faults, causes, to recognize language bias and to have the array of trained skills in research.

Eagle: In my experience being editor it takes a lot of time and work to publish the newspaper. It's also a mentoring process between the advisors and the staff. It's not your typical classroom. How do you see the new Eagle being written and produced when you are the advisor and teacher?

Brown: From my talks with the deans and Nancy, and from my experience at the high school level, it will depend on the staff and their writing ability. But first and foremost it's a student newspaper and it depends on how they want to set it up. If they want to leave it a little magazine format like this, that's fine. If they want to do a broad sheet or a larger tab or whatever, I think those decisions will be left up to the staff.

It might take us a while. It might take us a few months if they decide they want to change the format completely. How hands on I'm going to be, I don't know. My goal would be eventually to not be there except when someone needs me or if they ask me to be there physically, but they would be doing it. I don't think we can start out that way, I'll probably have to help with layout.

The student editors, whoever they may be, will be decided in the class, and they will be making the decisions.

Eagle: One of the things I'd like to do to resolve the issue of whether or not the faculty should have a voice in the college newspaper is to create a 'Faculty Forum' page where they can have a dialogue inside the student newspaper. What do you think about that?

Brown: I think that's a great idea. I think it will create more interest and dialog. It will have to be edited, and looked at by the student editors.

Eagle: The current practice at the Eagle is that editorial decisions should be developed in a consensual process between advisors, editors and staff. It's a self management approach. Do you think this is a good process?

Brown: Absolutely, I think you should have an editorial board, or maybe the whole staff would want to be involved with it. You'll have a news editor, a copy editor, and they should meet and decide what articles are going to go in.

Eagle: With the new programs being implemented, what is going to happen with the old Eagle staff?

McLelland: The basic requirement is that anyone who wants to be on the staff of the Eagle, has to be taking Communications 100, and that is standard at other schools. So you would get college credit. If you were not in the class you could submit articles and the staff then would make the decision.

Eagle: What will happen with the faculty advisors King Collins and Dale Glaser, they have years of experience producing the newspaper?

McLelland: The only person who will have paid responsibility will be Lillian. She is teaching the classes, COM 201 and COM 100. She is faculty advisor for both components, she has the skills and the interest in doing both aspects of it. So she is the only one who will have a paid function.

Eagle: Why weren't they (Collins and Glaser) interviewed for the job.?

McLelland: For one thing qualifications. The intention was to get someone who had the degree in journalism and significant practical experience teaching the courses... I don't believe they (Collins and Glaser) applied for the job.

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