Shrinking in size

Two local college newspapers see big cuts

Ally Dukkers, editor-in-chief of The Orion at Chico State, laments the paper’s recent downsizing but views it as a learning experience.

Ally Dukkers, editor-in-chief of The Orion at Chico State, laments the paper’s recent downsizing but views it as a learning experience.

Photo By Vic cantu

Related Websites:
Chico State Orion:
Shasta College Lance:

Two North State colleges accustomed to full-size campus newspapers have seen large setbacks this semester due to the changing times. Chico State’s award-winning The Orion has cut its size and format, while the Shasta College Lance is scrambling to keep from being canceled altogether.

The main changes to The Orion have been an approximately 40 percent drop in the number of pages beginning with the Feb. 8 issue, as well as a reduction from four sections to two. The four pull-out sections over the years have traditionally included news, sports, features and arts. These subjects are still printed, but have been condensed into two pull-out sections.

Orion adviser and journalism professor Glen Bleske says the downsizing is due to reduced advertising revenue.

“Some colleges get money from their school to pay for their paper,” Bleske said, “but ours is completely funded by ad sales.”

The loss of revenue, he explained, is an outgrowth of the recession, which has hit The Orion of late. “If you don’t have enough money to run a Cadillac, you’ve got to go with a Volkswagen,” he said.

Bleske stressed that the paper could grow back to its normal size if ad sales pick up. In fact, he said he expects them to do so, as is typical each April with the influx of student-housing ads. He said shaving the number of stand-alone sections from four to two saves the paper 30 percent in printing costs.

Orion Editor in Chief Ally Dukkers said the number of pages has traditionally been 25, but the last two issues have hovered around 15. She said the staff members were shocked to hear of the cuts two weeks ago but have recovered nicely. Though the number of articles has been reduced in the print version, more stories are being published online (at

Dukkers said she hopes that the online version will eventually become a daily. The smaller number of print articles will also give reporters the time to investigate stories more deeply.

Another space-saving move calls for putting the calendar section exclusively online. The sports section has also been downsized to consist of mostly player profiles, with game-by-game reports now mostly online. Dukkers said the paper is also being improved by adding QR codes, symbols that when scanned by smart phones lead the reader to exclusive online content and videos.

Dukkers remains positive about The Orion’s situation.

“A reporter from the Sacramento Bee gave us a critique after our first downsized issue and said we handled it well,” she said. “We’d love to have the paper go back to how it was, but it’s a good learning experience.”

As for the Shasta College Lance, though a Feb. 2 article in the online proclaimed the paper dead this semester, news of its demise may be premature. Ralph Perrin, dean of Shasta College’s Department of Arts, Communication and Social Science, said the paper is slow in getting out due to a fundamental shift in how it is produced.

“The Lance has traditionally been published through a class called Newspaper Production, which was canceled this semester due to low enrollment,” Perrin said. “But the Student Senate has decided to take over the reins and publish it on their own.”

This is new to the senate, so putting out a paper will be a challenge. The first issue is expected in late March and may be smaller than in previous semesters, said Student Senate Adviser Sherry Nicholas. She added that the Lance will switch from a bi-weekly to a monthly.

Perrin said the low enrollment in the newspaper class, when only six students signed up this semester, may simply be due to student scheduling incompatibility. He said that Shasta College no longer offers an AA degree in journalism but still offers some journalism classes.

Nicholas said that the downsized school budgeting has forced the cancellation of classes in many subjects with low enrollments.