Journalism-photography program leaves oversight of English department

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The new department is looking for journalism faculty to hire in November.

By Sergio Medina

smedina104@student.alamo.edu

A hopeful and eager Markene Bennett, radio-TV-broadcasting program coordinator, wants communications and journalism students to know journalism-photography will continue at this college.

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On Oct. 5, The Ranger carried an announcement from the journalism-photography faculty that The Ranger would cease operation with the retirement of the three faculty members in December.

In an interview Nov. 12, Bennett said, “There are big shoes to fill.”

Other reasons, such as a dwindling budget and decreasing enrollment, factored in to plans to end the 95-year run of the nationally recognized college news outlet The Ranger.

In the spring semester, the program moves to the oversight of the department composed of communication design, computer information systems, music business and radio-television-broadcasting programs. The college will advertise immediately for one fulltime teaching position.

“We want to make sure we get enough people to apply for that to where we have a very good selection for a really good candidate. Fingers crossed, we can find that person for the spring,” she said.

With a new hire, journalism courses could resume as early as spring or Flex 2, Bennett said.

She said the department was given the go-ahead to hire two faculty members; one now and a second perhaps by the fall.

“So I think, once we hire one person and we get some direction and some movement going, then maybe by the fall, there’ll be another person,” she said.

Bennett said there are no photography courses slated for spring.

There are no guarantees, but availability of spring photography courses could change as soon as new journalism faculty is hired, she said.

“This merger will take time, and one thing for sure is, we want to get it right.”

The spring courses include:

  • COMM 1307, Introduction to Mass Communications.
  • COMM 2300, Media Literacy.
  • COMM 2327, Introduction to Advertising.

Both the radio-television-broadcast program and the journalism-photography program have been offering these three classes for several years so they could be continued easily by adding sections to the R-TV-B course schedule.

Adjuncts could teach in the spring semester as some of the classes have already been taught by that program’s adjuncts.

Bennett said journalism faculty must have a journalism background with experience in the field and an interest to move journalism forward to contemporary mediums.

She said that future instruction of journalism will include an emphasis on digital media like websites and social media.

While The Ranger’s online presence began in April 1995, the publication contracted from weekly print publication to only digital publication in fall 2019. Reduced program budgets could no longer support a weekly printed version.

“We don’t want to change a lot, but we want to just, I would say, amplify the current and existing program to take it into the new media realm of writing for the websites that are all out there and social media,” she said.

Photography, an integral part of journalism, is not being forgotten, Bennett said.

She said the photography lab under the journalism-photography program is “beautifully equipped and technically efficient. We want to keep that intact.”

The new department will maintain the photography labs and classrooms in their current locations “at least for a while,” Bennett said.

Room 100 of Loftin Student Center, opened after remodeling in 1992 and improved since, includes two studios, a computer classroom, offices and an equipment room.

Bennett said there have not been discussions about moving journalism courses to Longwith Radio, Television and Film Building, which houses the R-TV-B, music business and communication design programs.

“We are barely in the planning stages,” Bennett said. “We know the direction we’re going, pretty much.”

In an interview Nov. 11, Troy Touchette, chair of the communication design, computer information systems, music business and radio-television-broadcasting department, said he does not want to get ahead of himself about plans for student media. New journalism faculty must directly influence the outlet that replaces The Ranger, he added.

In a Nov. 12 interview, Express-News reporter Laura Garcia, a former editor of The Ranger, said it’s essential for new student media to remain an independent, free press. She also said incoming faculty must have qualities that nurture and support students in a learning setting, in addition to a journalism background.

Garcia, who is president of the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists, said the organization established The Ranger Committee to brainstorm ideas for the future of journalism and student media at the Alamo Colleges.

The Ranger editor Sergio Medina is a member of the committee.

Garcia said Chancellor Mike Flores wrote to her in a Nov. 12 email that the committee would be “at the forefront” of discussions to elaborate the future of journalism in the district.

In an interview Nov. 16, Flores said the first meeting will be 10 a.m.-noon Nov. 30 at district headquarters. President Robert Vela will be present at the meeting, he added. Any potential subsequent meetings will be planned later that day.

Flores said he wants to wait until after the meetings to give his considerations on the future of journalism in the district.

However, he said he supports a free and independent student media, and added that he believes Vela shares the same value.

The Ranger has made multiple attempts to contact Vela since the news about the program broke Oct. 5, but no interview has yet been granted either by this college’s public relations office or Vela’s office.

Vela’s office sent out an email statement Oct. 5 pledging to maintain journalism and student media after December.

Bennett said the communication design, computer information systems, music business and radio-television-broadcasting department has not been approached by Vela or Flores about the district discussions.

Bennett said about journalism students, “The good news is, if they’re just starting, they could always take some of their general ed courses, you know, while we kind of wind things up again — that’s what I’m going to recommend — depending on where they are.”

Bennett also recommends students build on their communications skills by taking courses under the R-TV-B program, including:

  • COMM 2339, Writing for Radio and TV.
  • COMM 2331, Announcing.
  • COMM 2322, Radio-TV News.

Bennett encouraged communications and journalism students to email her for more information on journalism courses and to plan an academic path as the journalism-photography program finds its footing. She can be reached at lbennett@alamo.edu.

“I just hope that students won’t feel left out and that they will contact us,” she said. “I just don’t want anybody to give up and say, ‘Oh well, nothing’s going to be here for us.’

“There couldn’t be anything further from the truth.”

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