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Ventura College Press Staff Members Prepare Paper’s Last Edition

Today’s Ventura County Star (free registration required) has the story on the closure of the Ventura College Press, Ventura College’s student run newspaper:

For Chris Martinez, it was like being back in college as he sat with a group of student journalists last week planning another edition of the Ventura College Press.

Martinez last worked for the campus paper in the late 1960s, a turbulent era when tens of thousands of young Americans were killed in an unpopular war halfway around the world. The war, the civil rights movement and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy provided the then-young cartoonist with plenty of fodder for his college paper, then known as “The Pirate Press…”

Nearly four decades later, grayer but no less idealistic, Martinez, 58, now a freelance cartoonist from Ventura, was compelled to put pen to paper for his old college weekly after hearing it was closing after 80 years in print.

Flap previously reported the VCCCD Board of Trustees’ decision to close the Ventura and Oxnard College newspapers and to consolidate them at Moorpark College. Read those stories here.

…Ventura County Community College District officials blame the paper’s closure on budget problems and low enrollment in the college’s journalism program. Officials also are closing Oxnard College’s student paper, The Campus Observer. They plan to replace both papers with a districtwide publication run out of Moorpark College.

But many, including Lara Shapiro Snair, managing editor of the Ventura College Press, don’t think a districtwide paper will accurately reflect the issues of Oxnard and Ventura students.

“This newspaper is the voice of the campus,” said Shapiro Snair, as she sat at the table with Martinez and others. “That voice can’t be heard from Moorpark.”

Students protested the closures a number of times after district trustees announced the closures in March…

The VCCCD Trustees should be more heavily criticised for their financial mismanagement of district’s resources. Flap is certain that the Ventura County Grand Jury will not have kind words for the VCCCD in July.

…The Ventura College Press has won numerous awards over the years, including a statewide general excellence award last month from the Journalism Association of Community Colleges.

Rob O’Neill, a member of the association and a journalism instructor at Pierce College in Los Angeles, said student papers are important because they inform everyone about events. They also serve as laboratories, training young people in the skill and craft of journalism, O’Neill said.

“Campuses that don’t have their own newspapers are poorer places,” he said.

O’Neill said news will travel with or without a newspaper because people’s curiosity and need to know is as old as the caves. But forced to survive as rumor, facts often become quickly distorted with little or no connection to the truth, he said.

District officials are vowing not to let this happen at either the Ventura or Oxnard campus.

Dennis Cabral, executive vice president for student learning at Moorpark College, has worked on the plan for a districtwide newspaper. Cabral said he knows it will be a challenge but the district is committed to making it work. One way to do that is by making sure the paper is open to students from all campuses, Cabral said.

But students at Oxnard and Ventura remain skeptical.

Without their own campus paper, Shapiro Snair predicted, one or more underground newspapers will soon sprout up.

“It’s just a matter of time if we can’t keep this paper or the one at Oxnard going,” she said.

Meanwhile, current and former staff members of the Ventura College Press will gather Thursday evening for the paper’s annual banquet. It will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Seaside Park’s Derby Club in the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

Well that is a wrap – shameful as it is!