The South County’s only college newspaper is struggling to produce another issue amidst harsh, statewide budget cuts.
The Southwestern College Sun previously received funding from the college that allowed them to publish 14 issues each academic year at $4,500 per 20-page issue, costing approximately $63,000.
However, the Sun received just $13,900 for printing expenditures during the 2012-13 fiscal year, an amount that has already been exhausted after printing three issues and an eight-page special section last year.
“We had kind of a budget meltdown in 2002 and have been cut almost every year ever since,” Branscomb said.
Branscomb acknowledged that other departments are suffering and sees the cuts as part of a bigger problem, which he calls “the starvation of academic programs.”
He said the decade-long cuts have amounted to a budget so decimated that his students have had to fundraise to produce at least seven issues since the fall of 2010.
Despite all that, the students met last week as they do every week on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon in room 640 to discuss entries for an annual Northern California newspaper contest, an opportunity that, if this trend continues, could be eliminated.
Students competing in the 2013 Northern Journalism Association of Community Colleges newspaper contest have received some partial funding with a $6,750 grant from the Southwestern College Foundation, but still must fund approximately $200 more for each student for registration costs and other expenses.
It costs approximately $6,400 to pay for everybody to enter the contest, according to Branscomb.
The paper also received a grant from California State University Chico for a one-night hotel stay because of the connection it has with recruiting journalism students on internships.
Previously the paper’s operational budget has been able to cover the majority of the cost for competitions.
“The operational budget is everything rolled together, most of it is for printing, travel is the second biggest event, then supplies and expenses to run the building,” Branscomb said. “This year was the first time that I’ve had to have students pay a (significant) chunk of it.”
With a decreasing budget, Branscomb met with School of Arts and Communication Dean Donna Arnold and Vice President of Academic Affairs Kathy Tyner to see if the newspaper could secure some Proposition 30 funds coming to the college; however, the funds are being used to restore other cuts.
Students held a fundraiser this year on Feb. 7 when writer Lee Bosch organized a rock show and raised approximately $150.
Since then students have raised approximately half the cost of printing one issue so far.
With the 60-student class pouring their efforts into raising funds, writing, editing, layout and design have been put on the back burner.
“I’m still trying to teach them journalism fundamentals,” Branscomb said. “It’s difficult not knowing when we’re going to be able to print.”
The inability to see the fruit of their labor has decreased morale in the newsroom.
Staff photographer Pablo Gandara said due to the lack of funding, productivity has decreased.
“It’s getting old,” Gandara said. “It’s hard to stay motivated.”
“They’re frustrated because they signed up for a class called Campus Newspaper Production and we haven’t been able to produce a newspaper, but having said that they’re being very resilient,” Branscomb said.
He said they try to be good stewards of funds in order to get the best printing deals and have previously entertained options such as shopping lower-cost printers, reducing the page count and spending less on color.
“The problem with the printers is that most of them have gone out of business in San Diego County,” he said.
“Printing it in black and white is a little bit cheaper but not as much as people might think and that kind of does a disservice to students who are learning design and color palettes.”
Branscomb said the staff has high expectations for the look and feel of the paper.
“I want it to be modern and well-designed and that’s actually led to careers for a lot of our students,” he said.
The newspaper gives students a reason to believe in themselves, according to Gandara.
“It shows your commitment when you see your product coming out,” he said. “It’s such an achievement.”
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