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Capitol Hill journalism is not dead: Seattle Central College has a new student newspaper

(Images: SCC)

Student journalism at Seattle Central has had a long but turbulent history at the Capitol Hill community college. Now, students and faculty are on track to start a brand new student-run newspaper.

Johnny Horton, Seattle Central English faculty and advisor to the budding publication has been vetting applicants for the five member publication staff of “board members” — and an additional individual to be social media manager.

“We’re going to have a focus on both investigative reporting and hard news within Seattle Central as well as the community,” said Horton. “What happens in Seattle politics and what happens in Capitol Hill affects students here.”

If everything goes smoothly, according to Horton, the new staff will begin publishing to its website by the end of January with a full-fledged print edition in swing by the end of the winter quarter.

The publication has a budget of $60,000 allocated by the Seattle Central College Student Fees Committee — a group of six students chaired by a member of the college’s student government: the Associated Student Council (ASC) — which makes recommendations to ASC about their budgeting decisions. The funds were approved by the student government back in May.

Numerous student-run news publications have recently come and gone at the college —often amidst bitter controversy. Since 1966, the college housed the City Collegian, a biweekly print and online newspaper, which published until 2008, when it was shut down by administrators. There are conflicting narratives as to why the paper shut down: administrators argued at the time that it was due to the resignation of the City Collegian’s faculty advisor, while the advisor and the publication staff claimed it was retaliation for articles critical of the administration. (Leading up to the shutdown, the paper published stories documenting how the administration utilized international student fees to balance budgets and how several campus security managers violated federal law by failing to properly record campus crime.)

Several years later, a group of students revived the dead paper in the form of the New City Collegian, a feisty online and print student news outlet that tried to stay independent of the college by relying on ad buys from neighborhood businesses.

Following the closure of the City Collegian, a new administration sanctioned student publication was erected — titled the Central Circuit — though it served as more of a arts and culture magazine until a group of journalistically minded students filled its staff positions in 2013 and turned it into substantive news operation. While serving as Editor-in-Chief at the Central Circuit, CHS and Seattle Weekly alum Casey Jaywork authored a heavily reported piece documenting the controversial demise of the City Collegian.

The reinvigorated Central Circuit continued to produce print and online content until March of 2016 when it went on hiatus while a search for a new advisor was carried out, according to SCC Dean of Student Development, Ricardo Leyva-Puebla.

Full disclosure: This reporter used to write for both the New City Collegian and the Central Circuit while completing his studies at Seattle Central College. A SCC journalism outlet has been, quite literally, one of the last cradles of new reporters in Seattle.

Of the controversial history of student journalism at SCC, Horton said that, while the past was “remarkably turbulent,” he’s confident that the publication will have more lengitivy and security this time around. “It doesn’t have to be like what it was in the past.”

Horton credited the new SCC President, Sheila Lange, for supporting the new publication, saying that Lange and former City Collegian advisor, SCC English faculty and student journalism advocate, Jeb Wyman, met last summer to discuss the prospects of reviving student journalism at SCC.

“Honestly the whole administration is different now and these are people who are really behind student journalism,” he said. “They have thick enough skins that they can get criticized by a student paper.”

Wyman confirmed that he met with Lange last summer, stating in an email that Lange asked to talk with him about reviving student journalism at SCC. “I’m grateful to have a president who understands and supports the independent student press, and I’m optimistic that Seattle Central will once again have news racks filled with newspapers with the voice of the students,” Wyman wrote.

“In June, it will be ten years since a vindictive administrator locked the [City Collegian] editor and chief and the student staff out of their own newsroom. A few weeks later, that administrator pitched the newsroom into a dumpster. The City Collegian was ranked one of the best student papers in the region.  It’s been a long wait, but I hope we can finally get journalism back on its feet here at Seattle Central,” he added.

Horton stressed that his role is strictly limited to being both an advisor and an advocate for the paper and its staff within the college, and that the publication staff will be entirely self-governed. “They will be making the editorial decisions.”

Joshua Scott, a 25 year-old Seattle Central student working on his associate of arts transfer degree, was one of the applicants to be a publication board member. Scott said that he’s confident about the paper’s prospects given his conversations with Horton and other interested students. “Johnny’s giving us the huge opportunity to self-direct,” he said. “We’re hoping for a pretty quick [ramp-up] timeline. We’ve got some story ideas in the works.”

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