The imminent closure of this college’s news outlet, The Ranger, has raised alarm among professional journalists.
The demise of The Ranger must not leave a void that will adversely affect the Alamo Colleges, the city and the profession of journalism.
District administration pledges to continue student journalism and replace veteran journalism faculty who are retiring. Chancellor Mike Flores plans an initiative to reinvent journalism education in the district. And he wants involvement by local professional news media in this process. That is encouraging because a lot is at stake.
The Ranger has produced generations of student journalists who have gone on to successful careers. It has won numerous national and regional journalism awards, and it has produced investigative reporting that exposed high-level corruption and made national news.
One of the finest jobs done by Ranger reporters was in the spring of 1978.
Two Ranger staffers, Trent Everett and Richard Smith, reported on allegations by eight maintenance workers from this college who contacted the newspaper. The workers accused three high-level administrators and a board trustee of ordering them to make repairs at the officials’ private homes during regular working hours, using college district vehicles and supplies. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth1337663/?q=%22m.c.%20gonzales%22).
The fallout from The Ranger’s reporting reached far beyond the campus. The San Antonio Light ran banner stories crediting The Ranger. The San Antonio reporter for United Press International, Mack Sisk, picked up The Ranger story and put it out on the wire service. Sisk wrote a letter to the editor to The Ranger.
“You guys did a heavyweight job that any daily newspaper would have been proud of in ferreting out that story,” Sisk wrote. “I admire The Ranger for having the courage to run such an investigative report about officials who control operation of the college, even after one of them threatened to sue. It’s a credit to the journalism department to exhibit that kind of moxy.”
The Ranger’s reporting triggered investigations by then college President Jerome Weynand, college district board President Walter McAllister Jr., Bexar County District Attorney Bill White and Texas Attorney General John Hill.
Within six months of The Ranger’s first report, two of those investigated had resigned and agreed to repay the college district for the work done.
The Society of Professional Journalists has had a long and productive relationship with The Ranger and the journalism program at this college. Their Chapter of the Society was chartered Oct. 6, 1992, as the first among the nation’s two-year colleges. The San Antonio Pro chapter of SPJ has provided mentoring and scholarships to many SAC students and alumni.
The Ranger leaves a proud legacy. Administrators must make sure the district, the city and future whistleblowers continue to have a strong and independent media outlet.