Thursday, March 29, 2012

In defense of newspapers in a digital age

What follows is a short academic essay I wrote for the Journalism Association of Community Colleges in defense of newspapers not long ago. Don't steal it you piracy bastards LOL!

by Ariel Carmona Jr.

"I am not the editor of a newspaper and shall always try to do right and be good so that God will not make me one," wrote Mark Twain for Galaxy Magazine in December of 1870. Twain's satirical sentiment can be transplanted to the modern era, where an editor of a newspaper could arguably hate his job during a point in history when a 24-hour news cycle and the advances of technology have eroded an industry and caused massive layoffs and enough consistent dissatisfaction with the profession to discourage anyone from entering. However, to argue that we should let newspapers die simply because they are already contracting as a result of declining advertising revenues and the crippling effects of a national recession, is not logically persuasive because it relies on numerous faulty assumptions.

First, proponents of alternative methods of dissemination of the news point to the rise in social media, blogs and other outlets for gathering information and relaying it back to the public. Although social media websites like Facebook and Twitter top the lineup of most popular social media networks with an estimated 750 million and 250 million monthly visitors, respectively, ("eBiz The eBusiness Knowledgbase") neither Facebook, nor Twitter, nor You Tube are reliable sources of information, despite their immediacy and popularity. You Tube in particular, is littered with cases illustrating news hoaxes and falsified reports.

Citizen journalism websites are often cited as another viable 21st century replacement for the moribund newspaper industry, but the problems associated with these websites are as prevalent as those with social media sites, perhaps even more so because practitioners of citizen journalism are not trained in journalism practices, libel law, or ethics, and they are not policed in any ways in matters of standards.

Erin Elizabeth, a journalism major at Ithica College in New York, cites examples of the pitfalls of citizen journalists, succinctly arguing, "They're cheap, they're willing and they're woefully untrained." In her impassioned diatribe against them she goes on to write, "Journalism is like teaching, a lot of people think they can teach elementary school. You only have to know how to write and take pictures, but the truth is it's so much more than that which his why my teacher parents say they could never be journalists because they aren't willing to do the work" (Elizabeth)

One can certainly take Elizabeth's post as an embittered rant, but this does not debunk some of the points raised in her argument. Though many newspapers currently exist who solicit and encourage contributions by citizen journalists, they don't see the bigger picture.

CJ Cornell, executive director of New York Institute of Technology's global Vanguard Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program recently spotlighted the problems of having to identify who exactly is a journalist in an age when "Just about anyone with a laptop or cell phone can use free technology to create quality media and reach audiences larger than any newspaper or television network." In his analysis, Cornell explains the recent case of Oregon Blogger Crystal Cox, whose blog was sued for defamation, to the tune of $10 million, for writing several blog posts that were highly critical of an investment firm.

Cornell persuasively uses the Cox verdict to argue against the drawbacks of citizen journalism. "The Crystal Cox case reminds us that journalists need special protections, as a part of their work, to ensure their sources remain confidential. Occupy Wall Street represents countless examples where journalists are granted special access.” (Cornell)

Moreover, those in favor of letting the newspapers perish due to the proliferation of blogs and a plethora of non-profits and news sites fail to consider that for every good blog like a, or California Watch, there is a sleazy counterpart like the Walnut Tattler. Getting back to the Cox verdict, Cox did not qualify for state shield law protection because she wasn't employed by an official media establishment.

So what is the solution for newspapers to stem the tide and how do we pay for them in light of the financial losses they have already suffered? Luca Shaw's assertion in a article that newspaper pay walls like the ones recently adopted by the N.Y. Times and the L.A. Times are too late, may be a bit premature, given some encouraging stories in recent months. The New York Times, for example has had some success with their "Times Select" pay program and so has the Financial Times, which launched a pay wall back in 2010 and has reached 267,000 digital subscribers. (Shaw)

Those who work hard in the industry should be remunerated for their efforts. Traditional print outlets should cooperate with new media and embrace technology, rather than be encumbered or be afraid of it. Reporters should help each other out, after all, the fifth estate and the more mainstream media share the same mission. Perhaps a feasible compromise would be to have smaller newspapers under the aegis or sponsorship of more successful and bigger media conglomerates, similar to popular blogs who feature blogrolls that are alike in tone and topic.

In sum, the argument that newspapers should be discarded does not take into consideration the myriad problems associated with alternative methods of delivering news content. Newspapers are needed because they are still the best way to safeguard our freedoms, the fourth estate still functions as an excellent training ground for the nation's budding reporters and editors. The talent and mentoring combined with the newsroom experience, despite recent cuts, is still immense and valuable, compared to other media; some might even say indispensable.

Just because some have turned away from consumption, does not invalidate their value. People can ignore the benefits of healthy foods, but that will never diminish their importance. Similarly, the analytical and investigative potential of the nation's print newspapers cannot be ignored. Newspapers can never die; their structure may be malleable and they may morph into other forms in the future, but their purpose and their mission can never be underestimated or questioned in a democratic society.


Cornell, CJ. "Media Shift." Idea Lab: Community News for the Digital Age.,

31/1/2012. Web. 21 Mar 2012. <>.

Elizabeth, Erin. "The Case against Citizen Journalists." Independent Media Erin. blogger,

4 Dec 2011. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. <>.

Shaw, Lucas. "Newspaper Paywalls: Too Little, Too Late for a Fallen Giant Industry?." Wrap. 24 Feb 2012: n. page. Web. 21 Mar. 2012.


"Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites." eBiz The eBusiness Knowledgebase

(2012): n.pag. eBiz. Database. 21 Mar 2012. <>.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

SB 1440 to Help Students Earn Associate Degrees for Transfer to the Cal State University System

By Ariel Carmona Jr.

Citrus College has joined 61 community colleges throughout California that offer associate degrees for transfer to the California State University (CSU) system. System-wide, 133 associate degrees for transfer have been developed and approved since last summer, and are now available to students throughout the state.

The associate degrees are the byproduct of the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act (SB 1440) of 2010. SB 1440 guarantees admission to the CSU system with junior standing to any California community college student who completes an associate degree for transfer. If admitted to a similar major at the CSU, students will then have to complete 60 units to earn a bachelor’s degree.

According to information made public by the Office of State Senator Alex Padilla, who authored the bill, clarifying and streamlining the transfer process would result in students graduating more quickly, allowing community colleges and the CSU to serve more students.

Dr. Geraldine M. Perri, superintendent/president of Citrus College believes that SB 1440 will be instrumental in removing a key barrier students face in transferring to a CSU institution.

“California’s economy is directly dependent on an educated workforce with the skills set and training required to succeed in job sectors requiring advanced degrees,” she said. “The associate degrees for transfer empower our students with the knowledge they need to navigate what has traditionally been a rigorous path into the CSU. This pathway to baccalaureate degrees will be instrumental in producing the professional workforce California needs as more numbers of the baby boom generation retire.”

Citrus College has established Associate in Arts for Transfer (AA-T) and Associate in Science for Transfer (AS-T) degrees in seven areas: sociology, psychology, communication studies, English, administration of justice, mathematics, and early childhood education.

To earn an Associate in Arts for Transfer (AA-T) or an Associate in Science for Transfer (AS-T), students must complete 60 transferable units in an AA-T or AS-T major, with a minimum GPA of 2.0., complete specified courses required for transfer and a minimum of 18 units in their chosen major.

Justina Rivadeneyra, career/transfer center coordinator at Citrus College, said it is important to note that while students are not guaranteed admission to a specific campus, major or program, transfer degrees give students priority consideration over other transfer students in their local area.

Another advantage is that students obtain a GPA bonus for impacted majors.

“Any GPA bonus is a plus. Although a .10 or .20 GPA bump may not seem significant, it may help a borderline student gain admission.” said Rivadeneyra.

“The AA-S and AA-T degrees are most beneficial if students select majors that have been deemed ‘similar’ at the CSU campuses, she said, “Therefore, if students want to save time and money by streamlining the preparation for their majors, it is wise to pick from the ‘similar’ majors and non-similar majors that are not impacted at the CSU.”

According to Rivadeneyra, once students learn that their CSU of choice or their major is impacted, maintaining a good academic record is imperative.

“When the CSU campus or major is impacted, a competitive GPA is very important for admissions. When the major is impacted, specific major preparation, or supplemental criteria, is often required. If a student completes an AA-S or an AS-T, they do not need to complete additional supplemental criteria for the major. This is precisely how an associate degree for transfer can benefit students; they reduce time to complete a degree because the major preparation is the same for all the CSU campuses that deem the major similar” she said.

Mrs. Joanne Montgomery, president of the Citrus Community College District Board of Trustees, said she was also happy to see the associate degrees for transfer removing the barriers students often encounter when transferring into the CSU system.

“Preparing our students to transfer to a four-year university has been a core function of the community college system, and that remains true today,” she said. “I am extremely glad that the pathway to transfer, which previously had been difficult for students to navigate, has been streamlined.”

For more information about the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act, or general transfer question, call the Career/Transfer Center at (626) 914-8639 or email them at or visit

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Citrus College Student Ambassador Takes Beauty Pageant Crown

Still working at the Advancement (Public Relations) office at Citrus College.
I figured since I still get to write a feature or two, I will start posting my profiles and articles here.
Here's my latest on Sarah Gleason, Miss Covina 2012: (photo courtesy of Miss Covina Pageant)

Citrus Student Ambassador Takes Beauty Pageant Crown

By Ariel Carmona Jr.

It’s hard to think Sarah Gleason could be transfixed, frozen in place, unable to move. Yet, that’s what happened to the 23-year-old Citrus College hospitality management major while on stage at the Covina United Methodist Church when she heard her name announced as Miss Covina 2012.“I was more emotional than any other girl would be,” said Gleason recalling the moment. “For the first 10 seconds, as they were saying my name, I couldn’t move to the center of the stage to be crowned because I was crying so hard. But, that moment will forever be replaying in my mind, because of all the hard work I put in. It was what I was waiting for.”

The youngest of five children, all of whom attended Citrus College, this was Gleason’s 5th year running for the title, and each year she competed she found a different motivation for doing so. “I wanted to show other girls competing for local titles, and other people in general, that if you have your mind set on a goal, and if you have the passion and dedication to put in the hard work, it can come true.”

A constant state of motion and activity are the qualities most would associate with the young student. In addition to completing her final general education courses at Citrus College, Gleason is a member of the Student Ambassadors, a select group of students who lead college tours and help out with other activities.

Even though Gleason admits she first joined the program for personal reasons, such as getting over her fear of public speaking and maintaining a high GPA, as her year-long commitment to the program started, her reasons shifted.

“My passion to promote community colleges and the love I have for Citrus College grew tremendously,” explains Gleason, “I discovered programs such as the Writing CafĂ©, Tutoring Center, and the true benefits that the Learning Resource Center has to offer students.”

Ivon McCraven, coordinator of school relations, said Gleason has demonstrated an incredible initiative and a strong dedication to the college and the community. “Sarah is organized and motivated to serve others. She is always on time and always greets people with a smile.”

Gleason said that as she finishes her final semester at Citrus College, her goal is to continue to share not only the benefits of community colleges and higher education, but what the college has to offer to make other students’ educational journeys more successful.

For a lot of students, balancing the demands of being a full-time student, working at In-n-Out Burger, and taking on the added responsibilities of Miss Covina could prove too taxing, but Gleason said she still manages to squeeze in some fun whenever she can.

“I am a very active girl. In my free time I like to be outside, whether it is snowboarding, hiking, or rock climbing. I try to embrace nature as much as I can,” she said.

An accomplished performer, Gleason chose Performing Arts initially as a program of study, but she said as time went on, she began to feel incomplete.

“I have always loved food and would make custom cakes for friends and create new recipes for my family. I realized my true calling was with food, and I could still make others happy, by giving them great customer service instead of performing for them.”

The Miss Covina Scholarship Pageant is an organization independent of the City of Covina, but a preliminary to the Miss California Pageant in the Miss America system. As such, Gleason will represent her city in the Miss California Pageant this June, as well as at local functions throughout the year.

Gleason has already begun her nine-week training period for Miss California, while concurrently attending events such as opening day ceremonies for local youth baseball and softball leagues and the recently held “State of the City” luncheon.

According to Mrs. Joanne Montgomery, president of the Citrus Community College District Board of Trustees, Gleason’s assertion that participation in the Student Ambassador program is a life changing experience is 100 percent correct. “The program helps the participants develop an appreciation for community colleges and education in general,” said Montgomery, “Sarah is right when she says the ambassador program will change a student’s journey through higher education.”

I have no doubt that Sarah will be able to juggle it all,” said Dr. Geraldine Perri, superintendent/president of Citrus College. “She has shown tremendous dedication to her academics and to the Student Ambassador program. The Citrus College community is proud of Sarah’s accomplishments.”

Gleason will finish Citrus College with two associate degrees and multiple certificates and will be transferring to University of Nevada Las Vegas next spring, in hopes of achieving her ultimate goal of owning a gourmet food truck. “Being employed by In-n-Out Burger, becoming a student ambassador, and now Miss Covina, many people told me that I couldn’t do any of that,” she commented. “Not only did I prove them all wrong; I became successful and stronger while doing it all.”

Sunday, March 11, 2012

California's Higher Education Systems Face New Challenges


We all get a little discouraged by the news coming out of Sacramento in regards to higher education funding. Perhaps I should amend that to say, we get very discouraged.

The news hasn’t exactly been rosy for the past couple of years, and as we anticipate the release of the Governor’s state budget- last week’s announcement by the Legislature that the 112-college system would take another $149 million of unexpected cuts this year, was met with disapproval and protest.

The cuts were necessitated because of an unexpected higher demand this school year for student fee waivers, specifically the Board of Governor’s Grant, plus lower-than-projected property tax revenues, according to a system news release.

“This $149 million reduction is unexpected and even larger than the mid-year trigger cut that the community college system has already endured,” California Community College Chancellor Scott said in a prepared statement.

Protests at all the regional schools, including Mt. San Antonio College, Cal Poly Pomona, and a well publicized protest at the start of the new semester at Pasadena City College, where the college president had to address a throng of angry students, have sadly become the norm at the start of every new school semester.

While working at Citrus College in Glendora this week, a familiar sight for me has been students hanging outside of bungalows and classrooms, hoping to add to already full-to-the-brim class sections, while a professor addresses the crowds, like a ring leader mitigating the chaos.

Meanwhile, the Little Hoover’s Commission Report, an independent state oversight agency tasked with updating the community colleges to meet evolving demands, has made some eye opening recommendations to fix the ailing system’s wounds, or to at least try and stop some of the bleeding.

According to the commission’s executive summary, it recommends that community colleges refine their mission scope to prioritize preparation for transfer to four-year universities, career technical education and adult basic education, establish a credit unit cap, tie a portion of funding to student outcomes, and shift responsibility and funding for all adult basic skills education programs to the community colleges, among many others.

Yet the part of the commission’s report that stood out to me most, as a former student and a byproduct of the community college system, is the one that recommends the establishment of additional criteria for Board of Governors fee waivers.

According to a recent article in the New University, the student newspaper at UC Irvine, California gives billions of dollars to support higher education every year. During the 2009-2010 school year UC students received billions in financial aid from the federal and state governments as well as private sources. This totaled $2.1 billion dollars for undergraduate and $1.5 billion to graduate students.

These financial aid incentives may be a thing of the past and what’s troubling about the possible recommended restructuring of the BOG waivers, coupled with Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal that calls for cutting funding to the Cal Grant system (totaling $131.2 million, according to the California Department of Finance), is that a college student’s imperative to explore career options, majors, or even to enrich their skills seems like it may also fall by the wayside.

This comes in the wake of “graduation initiatives” pushed by CSU administrators which have turned the state schools into more like factory lines, churning out graduates by the hundreds, rather than offering a plethora of programs and options like they once did.

Think of it in these terms: A student who enrolls in a community college, even after already having graduated or having obtained a bachelor’s from a four year institution will be required to pay out of pocket for classes to enhance their skills set, such as courses in specialized software programs. Does this not seem a little contrary to the state’s goal to meet their future needs with a competent, well prepared work force? Considering the price of education has risen 498.3 percent from 1985 to 2011, and continues to rise, is this even a realistic expectation?

These are the questions facing the future of the Golden State’s higher education systems, as Gov. Jerry Brown pushes to place a temporary increase in income taxes on high earners with a half-cent rise in the sales tax on the November ballot. I shudder to think how much worse it will be if Brown’s tax initiatives go down in defeat.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Will survive? AOL says yes. The jury is still out

So I came across this interesting article about today and plastered it all over my facebook wall.

Funny how something like this can seem very real and relevant when you have people that are friends affected by it. This piece does a very good job in my opinion of discussing the future of hyper local news in America, specifically given the fact AOL has banked its hopes on this venture being very profitable.

I don't know whether to believe's president who said that the site is making progress because of its traffic, or the writer of this article who presents a very different perspective, all I know is that patch does seem to be stretched thin across the U.S. landscape, with nearly 1,000 websites, but still, some people have never even heard of the site.

When I mentioned it to a friend today, I still got the puzzled response, "never heard of it" which would seem indicative that the brand has not penetrated the local consciousness of its readers, even nearly 4 years after its inception. So what are the ad people doing? If you believe printed reports and leaked material, including web traffic reports, a. advertising staff turnover is very frequent, thus leading to instability on the online advertising, which is the very lifeblood of the venture, and b.the network is scrambling to find money streams beyond online advertising.

It would appear that AOL is not getting a return on its investment, if we are to believe the figure cited by the author. You do the math, if they have dumped $160 million, but have only seen a $20 million total profit, it doesn't take a genius to figure out something isn't right.

The article goes on to discuss traffic. Web traffic is hard to gauge, but if we are to believe that social media is as big as they say it is, (Everybody and their mother seems to be on Facebook after all) then we can use it as an indicator of sorts.

Consider the local patches. They all have "Facebook" like indicators.

Glendora patch has existed a little over a year now and has collected these many facebook likes: (click on image below to read)

Walnut has existed almost a long, perhaps only a few months apart and they have this many:

Finally, Baldwin park, which has only been around for a few months, less than a year for sure:


I am not sure if these are a fair basis for comparison, with say something like Hollywood patch (which presumably would have a big draw with 583 likes, versus say Bethlehem Pennsylvania, which is back east and boasts of only 100 fewer than Hollywood California.)

I know some blogs that far exceed these social media numbers. If we go by social media alone, or facebook specifically, then may be in real trouble! Or it may just be reaching its potential at some future date and hasn't yet peaked, but a $140 million deficit does not sound very promising. Stay tuned as they say!