When journalism dies…

For weeks I’ve been watching the despair on my high school campus as our school board struggled with massive financial problems and we all feared equally massive layoffs. The worst case scenario in my district is nearly 400 teachers gone next year.


The board backed off a bit when the state finally came up with a budget…by reinstating more than 170 some-odd elementary positions by keeping class size reduction at the elementary level. Big sigh of relief all around.

But now the high school staffs wait their turn – and there are no reassurances of equal treatment. In fact what I’m hearing is additional programs are possibly on the block – journalism, yearbook. Possibly broadcasting. All electives, but all classes that encourage independent thinking and leadership.

I got my start in journalism in 1964 at Lodi High School. I’d caught the photography bug a few years earlier when I got my first camera and then took the equivalent of online or distant learning classes from the UC/University of California system. They’d mail me lessons, which I’d complete and return…they would grade and send me another lesson. Slow but very effective.

In high school I learned to come out of my shell, shoot well-composed photos, get names, understand writing and layouts. Alright – so I mostly wanted to be a photog, but I did learn a bit of everything in both yearbook (Tokay) and journalism (The Flame).

Now I was double or triple-bitten. My love of photography expanded to a love of photojournalism and lead to a nearly three-decades long career in TV news.

I have students who can’t imagine our campus without these classes – and I sincerely hope they aren’t all cut. I know the school board is faced with few choices…what to save? Music? Languages? Technology? Art? Sports? AVID? (no – not the nonlinear editing program – the college prep class) Journalism is one of the ties that bind a campus together. It is a mirror of the micro-society of the school and informs and entertains. It can dispel rumors with facts and recognize achievement.

What small-minded administrators and controlling school boards could not accomplish in other districts may take place due to budget cuts right here at home.

And generally what disappears does not easily reappear.

4 thoughts on “When journalism dies…

  1. Still holding out for your survival. I hope they can see the value of what is done in your classroom. So many skills are taught in a creative way. We teach it all language arts, math, science, social studies, art and more. Keeping you in our thoughts.

  2. Did you get the flyer of CTA, asking us to wear pink on Friday, the 13th? I’ll be thinking of you when I don my bright pink jacket. It is certainly a desperate time in teaching. I see our department disappearing when a few more of us retire. They will replace our slots with English and math teachers who will give more bubble tests. We are not training our students for the future with those kinds of classes.

    I have kids who tell me that the only class they like all day is the multimedia class or yearbook where they can work on their own on computers all period and make something. One of them recently told me that when his parents ask what he did in school, he can only remember what he did in multimedia.

  3. Pink is my least favorite color, but I’ll wear something pink on the 13th. And I agree about bubble-filling trainers. We do have some bright and enthusiastic young teachers who are losing their jobs – and they hate it just as much as the older teachers do. However, they don’t have the seniority (or curmudgeoness) to stand up and say no.
    One plea that kept resounding throughout our budget hearings was to get rid of all of the extra standardized assessment. In addition to the state required assessments, our district has its own set of assessments AND we spend nearly every CPT planning news ones just for our school.
    We have NO time to collaborate on anything but assessments and COI (which to me means chase your butt around in circles until you bite yourself).

  4. My father was a teacher for decades and we can’t see how this is happening in a country so pressed to be the best and the smartest. I hope your schools do well so that we can build better minds for tomorrow to help the future’s economy.

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