Bridging the Gap
Bridging the Gap
Why do we need a student-led newspaper like The Bridge at PCC? This is a specific question that has roots in a more fundamental question: why do we need journalism?
The Fourth Estate, as it has been named, is an unofficial, grassroots extension of the government, and yet there are no elections for writers or editors; there is little public funding for local, community news; even the demand for hard-hitting journalism is down in favor of sensational drivel about who slept with whom, who uttered the latest inflammatory statement, or unfounded, unsubstantiated gossip about the celebrity-du-jour.
Journalists are crowd-sourced in the sense that those with the most views hold the most sway. However, less people opt into local news. Less people vote in local elections. Less people even know who their municipal representatives are, let alone what measures or bills they support. Civic engagement continues to founder while social media participation is skyrocketing, and whatever miniscule level of civic awareness that reaches the mainstream merely becomes another source for fake internet points.
We are less interested in the local policies that actually affect us than we are in the hyperlocal events in our daily routines that provide little more than a superficial connection to “friends” that we seldom interact with in a meaningful way, and an adrenaline rush from the validation we receive for having participated in these thinly-veiled, global advertising schemes.
Not all is lost, though, and not everyone is fully committed to this virtual game of pin-the-likes-on-the-social-media-darling. Some people vote, some people phone bank, some people write and talk to their representatives.
People with tangible stakes in their community, like property owners, are motivated to vote on ballot measures for tax increases and zoning ordinances because of the capital incentives. Apartment dwellers are less motivated to vote to rezone single family zones so that multifamily dwellings can be erected because adequate affordable housing only matters when we don’t have it, newcomers be damned. Additionally, we are unlikely to voice our opinions on whether the single-unit exemption for Relocation Assistance enacted last year should be lifted to protect the 24,000 households that would be adversely affected by this pro-landlord clause.
It is most often those with significant profit motives and deep pockets that shape local and national policies; their voices are amplified by the sheer volume of their campaign donations. Those dollars alchemically convert into legislative action, or lack thereof, which is bolstered by misinformation campaigns masquerading as peer-reviewed scientific data. What do we do when the information that makes actions understandable are corrupted by profit motives? This is where real investigative journalism and publications like The Bridge, as well as the other fine local news publications enter the arena.
Once upon a time PCC had a Journalism program and a fully-funded, student-led newspaper called The Bridge. Staff gained practical experience while gaining college credit, and provided quality news service that upheld accredited journalistic standards. The Bridge of today, however, is not The Bridge of yesteryear. The Bridge 2.0 is mostly funded by the Student Activity Fee and is dispersed by the District Student Council (DSC). In 2012, a clever and motivated former-PCC student body president named Doug Taylor “found” surplus money in the DSC coffers, and with the help of a few likeminded Panthers, including volunteer former faculty advisor Tony Greiner, established The Bridge web version. A serendipitous partnership with Signal Outdoor Advertising produced the funds needed to revive the print edition PCC enjoys today.
The Bridge continues to provide invaluable experiences to its staff of writers and editors, as well as content “by, for, about, or of interest to the students of PCC”, and yet it could be so much more if the college prioritized it like every other college in Oregon does theirs. Colleges and universities statewide provide administrative funding for their student-led newspapers. Their budgets are automatically allocated to these publications. They also proudly include links to their student newspapers on their websites. The Bridge must have its budget approved annually before it can begin operations. It operates via its own unaffiliated website and in print through ad revenues. The Bridge clearly has the support of the students; now it’s time for the college to acknowledge and support the student interests it claims to support.