Can you believe it?!
The student newspaper at Barton Community College has turned a page, dropping its familiar black-and-white tabloid look for a magazine format. Journalism Adviser Yvonda Acker hopes the new Interrobang can at least duplicate the success of its predecessor, which won one of 182 first-place awards in the American Scholastic Press Association’s "Newspaper of the Year" contest for 2009-10.
When Acker announced the award last May, college administrators and trustees commended her for taking the journalism program forward since being hired in 2004. That was the year College Media Advisers censured the BCC journalism program after Acker’s predecessor, Jennifer Schartz, was removed from her position after refusing to prohibit students from running letters to the editor criticizing school employees.
Acker said she continued to build the program and enter Interrobang in other, non-CMA journalism contests, often with winning results. Last year the CMA removed its censure, noting Schartz had settled her lawsuit with the college in 2006 for $130,000. In 2009 Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman signed a new governing document that guarantees the First Amendment rights of the Interrobang student staff, the association reported. It reads, "We the staff of the Interrobang, assert that we have rights put forth by the First Amendment. Within those rights, we have control over the content of the college newspaper."
Yacker said her students have always decided the content of the Interrobang, which gets its name from a little-used punctuation mark that combines a question mark and exclamation point. (It’s used for sentences that are simultaneously a question and an exclamation.) "It’s always up to the editor what they cover," she said. Student journalists also decide what fonts the newspaper will use, and how the masthead will appear.
Willie Hodges, a student from Larned who worked on Interrobang last year before the design change, became editor this fall. Fifteen students work on the newspaper, handling all of the writing, photography, page layout and ad sales. There’s also a cartoonist, Ricardo Acosta, who pens "Ricardo’s Reality."
All of the student journalists are incredibly busy, Acker said. "The ones that get involved are involved in everything." Hodges, for example, is on the golf team and involved in the art program; he plays in several bands and has a part-time job in the college’s public relations department, in addition to his classes.
Changing to a new format was such a shift that the Interrobang only came out every three weeks, instead of every of week, this past semester. Yacker said she hopes the number of issues can increase this coming semester.
When the final issue of 2010 came off the presses last week, Hodges said he was excited with the latest cover — a mostly black background with white type. He’s also satisfied with changes that have been made this year.
"We go from all black-and-white to color on almost every page," Hodges said. The new format seems to lend itself to more in-depth reporting, he added. Each issue has a top cover story; the latest focusses on personal safety, with a report on recent thefts in student housing, and tips on property protection. There were also stories on Barton instructor Linda McCaffery publishing her first book, a report on the banning of a popular drink that combined alcohol and caffeine, columns and reports of campus sports and other activities.
When she announced the new design change earlier this year, Acker said it would make the publication more cost effective and environmentally friendly.
Other changes are still in the planning stages. Acker said the journalism department will soon unveil a multi-media website where students can not only see their printed words online, but can also upload video and audio. She plans to teach a broadcast journalism class, saying journalism students are no longer interested in just writing for newspapers.
"This is where this generation is headed," Acker said.
How about that?!