By Tristan Brown-DeVirgilio Campus News
After a pause in publishing hard copy issues during 2020 and 2021, all three student newspapers at Suffolk County Community College are once again publishing in print, though not without some changes in format.
Founded in 1959, SCCC has three main campuses, each of which has a dedicated student newspaper. The three campuses are the Ammerman campus in Selden, opened to the public in 1960; the Michael J. Grant campus in Brentwood, opened 1974; and the Eastern campus in Riverhead, 1977.
Currently, the three student newspapers are The Compass News at Ammerman, the Western Student Press at Grant, and The Lighthouse News at Eastern. The newspapers first began publishing soon after each campus opened.
Of course, the student newspapers began as exclusively print newspapers. Today two of the newspapers have websites and social media in addition to their print content.
Molly Altizer, former Lighthouse faculty advisor and Associate Professor of English and Journalism, notes, “Throughout history journalism has been in flux and has represented the social and cultural changes it reflects.” With the turn of the century, journalism as a whole, like many other things, has changed to include online.
Dr. Edward Bonahue, current President of the college, notes such change, both at SCCC and more broadly.
“While I am glad we can offer students the experience of being published in a hardcopy paper, my sense is that journalism has been transformed into a mixed media format, with many colleges and universities shifting to an online format, both to save money, and because that’s where students consume the news.”
The closedown of the college in 2020 may have initiated the biggest change to the papers. Before the college shutdown that year, all newspapers were publishing in print, with limited social media presence.
According to Dr. William Burns, Professor of English and current faculty advisor of The Compass, “We didn’t print hard copies for the 2020-2021 semesters.” Instead, he notes, The Compass sent a PDF of each issue to a campus dean, who then posted the issue on the college website. Each issue was also included in a monthly college e-mail bulletin.
The Western Student Press responded similarly. Anita Leibowitz is the faculty advisor of the WSP. She notes that the paper did not publish print issues for three semesters when the college was “homebound for the Covid pandemic.” The WSP continued publishing digitally, posting issues online.
Largely in response to the college shutdown, two of the newspapers, The Compass then The Lighthouse, created websites in addition to their hard copy papers. The WSP does not have a website. Susan Wood, Associate Professor, instructional librarian, and current Lighthouse faculty advisor, explains the reasoning for the move online.
“We added online to print when I started as [Lighthouse faculty advisor in] fall 2021…. I wanted the students to have the opportunity to update articles and post new articles in real time [and] to be able to do multimedia stories, and to have the option of linking to their work in their portfolios and resumes… it’s just easier to share when you have an online format, and that means a lot more visibility.”
At least prior to 2020, it was common for the SCCC newspapers to publish two or three print issues per semester, or about one issue per month during a given semester (excluding winter and summer sessions). Dr. Burns notes, however, that The Compass now publishes only two print issues per semester, in addition to weekly updates and stories on the newspaper’s website. He says, “We find that this is a more cost-effective strategy as well as expanding our coverage and readership into online/social media platforms.”
What do SCCC students have to say about the newspapers?
Brandon Roach, president of SCCC’s student government on the Eastern campus, thinks the college might be better off directing money towards things other than the hard copy newspapers: “[R]esources could be allocated to more important things, especially with money being so tight at [SCCC].”
He thinks, in addition, it is good that the papers are also online, partly because “students constantly [are] on social media.”
With respect to both the hard copy and the online SCCC newspaper formats, he concludes, “They are both valuable because there are some teachers who don’t know the Internet, but I feel like maybe cutting down the amount printed [would be a good idea].”
Leanne Pastore, on the other hand, is the current editor-in-chief of The Compass. She recognizes the changing state of journalism, at least at SCCC. However, Pastore sees something “irreplaceable” in hard copy newspapers.
She notes that seeing her name in a newspaper for the first time was “the proudest accomplishment [of her] life.”
She continues: “Yes, it was great to see my name online as well. But something about holding a physical copy of what I’ve written and being able to frame it or hand it to a loved one is irreplaceable to me. And if it means that much to me, I’m sure it means just as much to another student as well.”