By Mark Miller
On December 6th, 2017, the last issue of CCSF’s The Guardsman reached peak innovation in collegiate journalism via its first ever journalistic collaboration and joint publication with Laney Tower, the Oakland Community College newspaper.
While other college papers have united in the past for individual reports or specific stories, this collaboration on an entire issue by two separate educational institutions’ journalism departments was an unprecedented undertaking.
Editors in Chief, Bethany Lee of The Guardsman and Sarah Carpenter of Laney Tower, merged their minds, will and skill to produce the groundbreaking issue together.
The significance of this duo-newspaper produced edition lies in its reflection of the corresponding concerns affecting both papers and their respective educational institutions.
The logistic, economic and cultural differences between San Francisco and Oakland can seem as divisive as the waters of the Bay; yet in its own way, City College may have more in common with the blue-collar, underdog atmosphere and general culture of Oakland than it does with many of the cosmopolitan pretensions of “The City.” So perhaps this alliance of the two papers was somehow as inevitable as it was unexpected.
“The collaboration between our schools was very natural. Community college students often are underdogs by nature, especially in an area with such a competitive job market,” said Carpenter who, like Lee, serves a multi-tasking role as reporter, photographer, and Editor-in-Chief. “When we started talking about a collaboration, I felt this great sense of camaraderie –like we should have been working together the whole time,” she said about Lee’s input in the conjoint effort.
According to Lee, the seed of this collaborative effort grew from a spark of idealism: “I was part of an internship with The Pacific Media Guild where I met Laney college reporter Brian Howey. We spoke about how cool it would be to get the papers together. We dreamt up [the concept of] a new generation of reporters who could share information instead of holding on to scoops,” she said, emphasizing that “it wasn’t until a month later I got a text from Brian introducing me to Sarah Carpenter, [and] from there we got to work.”
She and Carpenter spent several hours hammering out ideas for story pitches that overlapped their common interests such as homelessness on campus, the privatization of public land and the issue of raising the wages of part-time faculty.
“Once we had a couple of article ideas for each section of the paper, we drafted assignment sheets and sent them out to reporters from which they developed articles,” said Lee.
The finished product features a strong lead story that effectively parallels the struggles both junior colleges experience in the face of big-time corporate entities.
CCSF Board of Trustees was opposing the AvalonBay development company that wants to obtain their parking lot from the city of San Francisco to build housing for Silicon Valley workers. Meanwhile, Laney College recently squared off against the Oakland A’s, who were seeking to build their new baseball-only stadium adjacent to the Laney campus.
Lee went on to point out that “each campus’ illustrators and designers also [had] a big hand in the process,” conceptualizing a compelling front page which was nearly identical at each campus, and that took “two reporters, three editors, copy-editors, illustrators and designers to complete.”
For Lee, the biggest benefit of the collaboration was the connections that were made. “Our reporters now cross information from San Francisco to Oakland. As community colleges we can share and highlight campus plight more effectively if we do it together,” Lee said.
“We’re all busy people working very hard on something that isn’t earning us a living yet, and that is an ongoing challenge in and out of the collaboration,” said Carpenter. She insisted that “the biggest challenge was also the biggest benefit,” which she felt were the two campus’ “different systems of operating.”
Those differences enriched Carpenter’s experience overall: “We were able to play on each other’s strengths which was nice.” Carpenter felt that both the Laney and City College’s journalism departments “benefited [from the collaboration] and therefore the quality of the paper and the effectiveness in its reporting went up.”
Lee agreed with Carpenter’s assessment: “I have not seen rival papers (we compete against each other in several journalism competitions) share complete access to each other’s networks, images, info, designers and manpower.”
Carpenter added, “I haven’t heard of any such collaboration before, and that’s part of why it felt like the right thing to do.”
Regarding the possibility of the two newspapers coalescing in the future, Lee was optimistic and expressed that “as far as collaborative efforts, it takes vision and a team committed longer than a semester to successfully produce each issue.” She also admitted, “I can see more dual bylines and cross-reporting in the future of The Guardsman.”
“I sincerely hope we collaborate in the future,” said Carpenter. She went on to add that “this [joint issue] was a test-run, and although it was pretty successful, I know that if we do it again it’ll be even more awesome!”
The success of this joint effort between the two school newspaper publications leaves room for future collaborations.
“I think we created a really awesome bridge –something that wasn’t there before, and we forged it. Everyone involved should be proud of that,” said Carpenter.
That bridge may have joined two cities, two colleges and at least for one daring edition, two newspapers.