Modesto Junior College Drops Student Newspaper, Entire Mass Comm. Program

Citing concerns about the school’s budget and legacy media’s relevance in the modern world, the president of California’s Modesto Junior College recently ordered the closing of the MJC mass communications program, including courses in “journalism, radio, television, film, and the instructors who teach these courses.”

Also among the casualties: The Pirates’ Log, MJC’s roughly 85-year-old student newspaper.

MJC President Gaither Loewenstein’s main mission appears to be staving off an $8 million budget deficit expected for the next academic year.  In a 20-page rationale document critics are calling “hastily written” and “shoddily argued,” Loewenstein wrote that mass comm.’s apparently lessening value makes it most ripe for cuts.

In his words, “Simply put, 20th century delivery mechanisms such as broadcasting and print media have lost much of their cultural relevance and employment potential in this modern era. In light of resource limitations, MJC must focus on maintaining its strength in the core disciplines of art, music and theatre, which will provide students with the creative skills set they need to apply their talents in the age of new media.”

What will journalism look like in the age of new media?  Loewenstein wrote that it will appear as “the convergence of computer graphics, gaming, digital applications and the Internet as means of delivery with content derived from the traditional disciplines of art, music and theatre.”  To repeat the latter part of this sentiment, in bold: “content derived from . . . art, music and theatre.”  (Editorial aside: Huh?)

An editorial in the current/final issue of the Pirates’ Log, headlined “We Thought We Were of Importance,” shared, “During President Loewenstein’s first semester in office at Modesto Junior College, he stopped by the Pirates’ Log newsroom and . . . emphasized the importance of student journalism for campus and academic life. Every college has to have a school paper, the staff heard him say. . . . So why did he change his mind? Did his views change so drastically in only one semester? Or was his statement to us a smokescreen? What will happen when there is no student voice left– a dictatorship?”

An MJC mass comm. faculty member facing a layoff in the wake of the cuts: “It’s silencing the voice of the students.  Students don’t have a newspaper; students don’t have the radio station.  They don’t have the television or even student films to tell their stories. . . . I think students are resilient.  I think students will come up with clubs.  I think now with the Internet they’ll have their own radio. . . . I think that’s what the college hopes.  That they’ll find a way without the expense of these programs. But these programs are not that expensive; they’re self-sustaining.”

On the top left corner of the Pirates’ Log homepage, the text of an inspirational poem of sorts has been placed atop the image of a headstone.  Its main message: Somehow, the newspaper will one day publish again.  Its title: “Never Surrender.”

A portion of the message appearing on the Pirates’ Log homepage headstone:

In print, in pen, in loud and fiery words. 

Our voice will never quiet, our voice will be heard.

On seas of ink and storms above us, the shore far out of sight.

The adventure may be ending, but we will never halt the fight. . . .

Whipped with censors, our backs bleeding, but our will still intact.

We entered here on a dream and left with a pact.

To never surrender, to drown with this ship. . . .

To never stop writing, we are this generation’s ears, and eyes

And an ever-growing voice.

We cannot be demolished, when to thrive is our choice.

In print, in pen, in heart.

You can tell us this is the end, but we will only see it as the start.

2 Responses to “Modesto Junior College Drops Student Newspaper, Entire Mass Comm. Program”
  1. As of Wed. May 4, 2011 MJC President Gaither Loewenstein has resigned admid revelations of his music career which include song lyrics that are shall we say “unbecoming” of a college president. Other factors may have contributed to his resignation. Check for updates on this breaking news.
    Joe Grant, Jr.
    News Editor, Pirate’s Log MJC

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