The cupboard in PCC’s newsroom is filled with books that bind every print edition from 1949 until 2016. The library archives hold newspapers from before the 50s, back when the Courier was called the Chronicle for Pasadena High School. However, for the first time in 102 years, and onward, there will no longer be a book or any physical archive that binds every print edition of each respective school year. PCC’s independent student voice, the Courier, will now be an online-only publication.
Editor-in-Chief John Orona and Courier adviser Nathan McIntire knew that the Courier’s print edition had to come to an end in order to keep up with the journalism industry. Smartphones have turned into a necessity at this time. Both acknowledged that in order to expand the Courier’s readership, especially towards students, the website had to be the Courier’s focus.
“[Most students] have grown up in this digital age,” McIntire said. “It’s become a second nature for many of us.”
Aside from the industry favoring all things electronic, the Courier’s advertising manager, Daniel Nerio, left his position for new opportunities, which completely eliminated the newspaper’s advertising revenue. Being online-based allows a cheaper budget, so Orona and McIntire knew this semester was the right time for the switch.
The Courier isn’t the first community college publication to become fully digital, but it was one of the first in the state to have an online website, even before local news outlets like Pasadena Star-News and Pasadena Weekly.
Former Courier adviser Mikki Bolliger recalled when the website was founded in 1996 by one of her journalism students, Done Dennison, who taught herself HTML. Anything that related to computers was considered foreign to the Courier staff at the time, but not to Dennison. As one of the only students who had Internet at her house, she helped the Courier generate a website and turned every given newspaper edition into an online edition.
“Done did all the work by herself; I can’t believe how lucky we were to have her at just the right time,” Bolliger wrote to staff in an email. “[Done] had read a lot about the Internet and was convinced that online newspapers were going to be a big part of the future. She certainly convinced me.”
Courier’s 2014 editor-in-chief Christine Michaels even remembers when she joined the team back in Feb. 2011 and digital media was the buzzword at the time.
“People were talking about online media a lot, and that we’d eventually have to switch, too. It was a huge deal,” Michaels explained. “We started talking about how things had to be done early because the digital setting is a 24/7 cycle in a businessweek, and that on top of our website, we had to constantly monitor our social media outlets, too.”
With her love for print, especially designing page layouts, Courier’s 2016 editor-in-chief Kristen Luna wasn’t eager to go fully digital, though, she knew she had to cater to the digital setting that people revolve around today. One of the biggest transitions for the Courier, enforced by Luna, was to make the print a bi-weekly edition last year.
“I felt it would be too much to go from a weekly print edition to no print at all, [and that it] would give us more time to focus on the website,” Luna said. “It was difficult to devote a lot of time to the website when every week our main focus was on our print edition, which would publish every Thursday.”
Once Orona took over Luna’s role, he was ready to make the Courier based online.
“Ever since I became editor-in-chief, I’ve been in full support of this. It seemed like the obvious choice,” Orona said. “First of all, it’s the twenty-first century, which is pretty much all digital, but we also lost our advertising manager, and that led to funding problems.”
The transition to the digital setting came with several oppositions and risks. With his extensive knowledge in design and photography, photo adviser Tim Berger believed that the traditional print media taught what journalism is supposed to be: meeting deadlines, then having something tangible to hold proudly as reflection of the staff’s efforts.
“There’s a value with what the Courier has done with print, especially with how deadlines work,” Berger said. “When you’re in the moment you don’t see the value, but once you leave it back, you see the value.”
On the other hand, managing editor and social media manager Amber Lipsey was concerned with the viewership of the paper. Though people nowadays are pretty much glued to their smartphone, logging into a news website to see the ongoings of the day isn’t a norm.
“People can keep up with picking up a new issue once they see it on the stands,” Lipsey said. “Busier people won’t remember to manually log in to our website everyday. This was a risk I knew we’d face if we went fully digital, which is why I originally voted against it.”
The decision came instantaneously based on the Courier’s budget situation and the industry’s gradual shift, and it wasn’t until Orona was outlining the goals and new logistics of the Courier in this setting, which he called the “digital plan,” when he realized what he’d done.
“As I was typing the digital plan, it hit me after the decision was made, that I felt like I destroyed 100 years worth of what the Courier was known for.”
A sea of mixed reactions hit the staff, students, administration, and alumni when the switch was announced. Bolliger heard the news through the Courier’s Facebook post, and after appropriately inputting her “sad reaction,” she went to the website for more information. None was found.
“That wouldn’t happen in print. We wouldn’t let anyone beat us to our own story,” Bolliger said. “Even though it is the Courier’s Facebook page, it is not the Courier. I think those of us with a foundation in print are very competitive. We were all about being first to break stories.”
With her career as the Courier’s adviser in 1973, Bolliger’s prefered news medium is print.
Echoing Berger, she believed that teamwork and deadlines was best emphasized through print. While stories can be posted later online when convenient, the deadline for getting the paper ready to print was strict.
The price of discontinuing print also led to not having printed archives of a year’s worth of work from the Courier. With one of the walls covered with old front-pages of the Courier, newspapers were the photo albums of any journalism family, something for them to look back on as a token of accomplishment and memories.
Opinion editor Daniel Larson remembered that he joined the Courier to see his name on a printed byline that he could share.
“I knew I could have writing on something solid and tangible. Something I can hold on to,” Larson said. “Anyone can post something online or have a blog nowadays.”
Administrators have been the majority of the Courier’s print audience. Vice President of Student Services Cynthia Olivo has looked forward to picking up the printed Courier on Thursday for years, which is something she’ll miss during this transition.
“I’ve been following the Courier for as long as I’ve been working for PCC, so eight years,” Olivo wrote in an email to staff.
However, seeing where the industry is shifting, Bolliger, along with Courier staff, alumni, and active readers, believes that the Courier needs to shift with the industry.
“I knew eventually the paper would go completely digital,” Luna said. “It just seems to be the way things within the field are shifting and you can either follow with it or resist it.”
This semester’s staff is up for the challenge of revamping our online and social media presence in ways we didn’t before. Advisers, editorial staff, and staff writers and photographers are ready to grasp onto this new setting in order to prepare themselves for their prospective media and journalism careers.
Editors were in charge of the layout design for their own page in the print setting. Now, instead of designing selected stories into one page, editors will craft each story in the website by enhancing them with the several multimedia that the digital world offers.
“I can’t wait to apply what I learned from page layout design to designing stories online, in a way we couldn’t on print,” Larson said. “We’d have four or five great photos but only have room for one, and now we can highlight all. There are definitely a lot of new artistic opportunities available that we didn’t have on print.”
Along with the digital art mediums editors can explore, stories can be posted immediately instead of waiting for production day, and can be immediately updated when new or incorrect information is found. The Courier will also take advantage of the online analytics that can be used to track viewership instead of estimating how many newspapers were left on the stands.
“We’re going to have build our readership from scratch now in this setting,” Orona said. “I’m looking forward to quantifying the data because we’ll know where on the website to improve on.”
“We used to base our readership with looking at how many newspapers were left on the stand,” McIntire said. “Not only do stories go up faster, but we can monitor the analytics of our site, and have a better idea of our viewings with those [analytics].”
New writers and photographers came into this Spring semester ready to see their name printed on bylines. Staff photographer Ayumi Kuriki already had high hopes and big goals once she walked into the newsroom on her first day of Berger’s photojournalism class, while staff writer Cailynn Knabenshue came prepared for the long nights of piecing together a newspaper with a new team.
“[On my first day of photojournalism class], I saw the great photos on the Courier newspapers displayed on the classroom walls. I expected to see my photos on the Courier’s wall like that, and I wanted to keep all the Courier newspapers that [used my photos for print],” Kuriki said.
“When I joined the Courier, I was expecting to do print,” Knabenshue added. “When I was editor-in-chief of my high school’s paper, we spent long hours on the weekends putting the paper together, and I fell in love with the entire process of it all, especially seeing the final product and being able to physically hold the freshly-printed paper.”
Though the Courier newsstands around campus will no longer be filled every Thursday morning, the Courier will remain committed to promoting the values of the 102 year old, independent student voice of PCC. The upcoming risks, benefits, and challenges motivates the staff to build on their craft in the digital setting.
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