Presses stop at Ventura College

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The voice of Ventura College will be silenced after the 80-year-old student-run newspaper is shut down and the doors to the college’s Journalism Department close permanently following the Spring 2005 semester.

Over the years, the newspaper staff has had the opportunity to cover numerous historical events, as well as campus events. As one of California’s oldest community college newspapers, its archives hold articles about some of the most remarkable events in history, including the Great Depression, World War II and the Vietnam War.

On May 8, the last issue was put out with a special front cover illustrated by Chris Martinez, cartoonist for the Ventura College Press in the mid-1960s.

“I was so happy to do it,” Martinez said. “It was so much fun to talk to the students. Those kids had the same kind of spirit.”

As Martinez sat in the newsroom with the Ventura College Press team, brainstorming ideas for the last issue, the staff reminisced and students were captivated by Martinez’s stories of what the paper was like in the 1960s.

Although times have changed, Martinez said the camaraderie in the room during the brainstorming session was evident.

“Journalism is typically a low-paying job,” Martinez said. “You have to do it because you love it. These kids love it.”

Even before walking into the newsroom, Martinez said he already had an idea for a drawing that would illustrate the strength of the group. When the issue came out, the cover illustration showed a pirate standing in front of a sinking ship, ready to fight in a war not quite lost.

“We may have lost the battle, but not the war,” Martinez said. “These kids are ready to keep fighting.”

According to Nathan Murillo, editor in chief of the Ventura College Press, the news that the department was being completely shut down came just days after officials announced it was on the list of possible budget cuts.

“We had no chance to save the program,” Murillo said. “We didn’t even know the program was in trouble.”

Laura Shapiro, managing editor of the Ventura College Press, was planning on becoming editor in chief next semester. With no program, that plan is out of the question, but the plan to continue in the field of journalism and persist in the fight for voices to be heard firmly remains.

“The majority of people who really want to do this will do what it takes,” Shapiro said. “They have found a love for this. We want to make sure our voices are heard.”

The day after the announcement of the department’s possible closure, members of the Journalism Department, along with other supporters, went to the board meeting to fight for the campus voice.

“We decided it was time to fight,” Shapiro said. “We jumped right into action.”

According to Shapiro, over 300 people showed up to the meeting in a room built to hold only about 100. People were protesting the budget cuts that caused many departments to close, including the Journalism Department at Oxnard College, which is only a few miles away from Ventura College. Many people went up to voice their opinions.

The meeting went on for hours, but the decision to cut the journalism program, along with many others, was still made.

“Nobody understands,” Shapiro said. “We still have never gotten a real answer.”

According to Murillo, when questions arose about why the program was being cut, the answers were vague and confusing.

“They kept giving us the runaround,” Murillo said. “They said it had to do with enrollment and budget cuts.”

However, Murillo said that while enrollment in the journalism program has never been high, it has always been a dedicated class of people willing to put in the time and effort.

“It’s amazing that they would cut it just like that,” Murillo said.

Shapiro said it doesn’t make sense that people would cut such an important program that gives students an opportunity to experience a field so vital to this generation.

“This is journalism,” Shapiro said. “This is where the future of the media is.”

According to Carol Weinstock, journalism adviser at Ventura College, some students will go to other community colleges, such as Moorpark or Santa Barbara. Others will transfer earlier than expected to four-year universities, such as CSUN or Cal Poly Pomona.

“We send a lot of our students to CSUN,” Weinstock said. “I’ve had a lot of my former students go to Northridge.”

Although the sudden news has been an inconvenience and a terrible surprise for many students, it is important to understand that they will prosper and that their passion for journalism has not been taken away, Weinstock said.

Weinstock, who has been at Ventura College close to 40 years, announced her retirement earlier this year, which she said may have contributed to the administration’s decision to cut the program. According to Weinstock, instead of filling the position, administrators figured it was easier to just get rid of it, considering that journalism has always been a relatively small department run by one person.

When Weinstock found out the program was being cut shortly after she announced her retirement, she said she was shocked and extremely upset. Weinstock said she doesn’t think it would have been as easy to get rid of the program if she had stayed.

With Ventura College, Oxnard College and Moorpark College being part of the same district, administrators have planned to produce a single district-wide newspaper based out of Moorpark. The paper will cover stories from all three campuses.

Although students will no longer be able to pursue degrees in journalism, some classes may still be offered. Murillo said this idea is not going to work.

“(The information) is going to be very limited,” Murillo said. “How much information are they really going to get at Ventura College (from Moorpark), compared to how much we cover on campus? The entire school is going to be left in the dark.”

Weinstock said the effects of this cut are going to be felt by more than just the students directly involved.

“It’s more than just the students,” Weinstock said. “This is the voice of the campus.”