Fate of student newspapers uncertain

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Two Southern Arizona towns may be without newspaper coverage if the UA journalism department closes.

The South Tucson El Independiente and the Tombstone Epitaph local edition are currently published by journalism department students, and professors say the two papers will cease to exist if the department closes.

Last week, Provost Paul Sypherd recommended the phasing out of the journalism, statistics and physical education departments over the next two to four years.

Sypherd said previously that nothing has been decided about the fate of the two papers. He was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Bill Greer, journalism professor and advisor to the Tombstone Epitaph, said if the department is closed, the control of the local edition of the Epitaph, which is currently published by the department, will be returned to the Epitaph Corporation, which currently produces a historical national edition.

Greer said he was told last week by Wallace E. Clayton, the publisher of the national edition, that "if the journalism students don't publish the newspaper it will cease publication."

Clayton was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Tara Meyer, the current editor of the Epitaph, said the experience working for the the Tombstone newspaper is beneficial to journalism students.

"Every student in the journalism department should have a chance to report for a small community paper," she said.

She said working for the newspaper involves not only writing stories, but also writing headlines, taking photos and doing layouts. About 20 members of the class travel to Tombstone for three-day shifts and return with at least three stories about the city council, crime, the high school or features about town members or local events, she said. The newspaper is published twice monthly.

Meyer said most journalism schools in the country do not provide lab newspapers like the Epitaph and El Independiente. The Social and Behavioral Sciences Committee, which originally suggested the elimination of the journalism department, also complimented the department's efforts in providing hands-on experience and in serving local communities.

However, Greer said although the journalism faculty was asked by Sypherd to "back away from the newspapers," he said he will do whatever he can to prolong the life of the newspapers.

"I will be happy to oversee the publication of the local edition of the Tombstone Epitaph until the very moment that the university fires me," he said.

The possible elimination of the South Tucson El Independiente would be detri-

mental to the community, according to a city leader.

Rene Gastelum, the city manager of South Tucson, said El Independiente is the only newspaper that covers South Tucson affairs and is beneficial in informing citizens.

"The paper is very beneficial in providing information to citizens," he said. "There are no other newspapers that closely cover the city. We get a few stories in the (Arizona Daily) Star and the (Tucson) Citizen, but nothing to the extent of the El Independiente. Some of the stories (in El Independiente) are good and some of the stories are bad, but there are stories. If the paper wasn't available, the residents would not be as informed as they are now."

C. Bickford Lucas, a journalism professor, said although no decision has been made about the fate of El Independiente, he is almost certain the newspaper would cease to exist with the department.

"In 1998, if the department is still in trouble, the department will close down and El Independiente will close down with it," he said. "It is not transferable to another department or another school."

The newspaper was created by the department in the 1970s, Lucas said. It is published four times each semester by about 20 journalism and Spanish department students, he said.

Mark Woodhams, director of the department of student publications, said if the journalism department was eliminated he would consider taking over the production of El Independiente.

"The best home for the El Independiente is right where it is now," he said. "But if the department was eliminated I think we would be in a unique position to help students continue publishing the Spanish-speaking paper."

Woodhams said no official discussion has been initiated about his idea, but added that he thinks the department is in an exellent position to continue publishing the paper with the help of Spanish-speaking groups on campus.

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