Santa Ana College
Each year, the Associated Collegiate Press recognizes excellence in student media with college journalism’s preeminent award, the Pacemaker. Pacemakers are awarded in each category of publication — online, newspaper, yearbook, magazine and broadcast.
Teams of media professionals judge entries based on the following criteria: coverage and content, quality of writing and reporting, leadership, design, photography and graphics.
ACP contacted Charles Little, adviser of 2015 Pacemaker recipient el Don for a Q&A. El Don is the student-run newspaper of Santa Ana College in Santa Ana, California. El Don won a Pacemaker in the two-year college newspaper category.
ACP also heard from Joanna Meza and Jose Servin, the co editors-in-chief of el Don.
ACP: Tell us a little about the editors and staff of your Pacemaker-inning publication.
Charles Little, adviser: Since we are a community college, our staff changes from semester to semester, so most of our students are beginners or have little experience when they start working on el Don.
ACP: What were the goals going into last year and how did you ensure those goals were met?
Joanna Meza, co-editor-in-chief: The goals going into last year as a staff were to ensure that all of our beginning writers learned how to write for our different sections in a way that was factual and unbiased, due to the fact that most of them were new. Whether it be news, style, views or sports. Teaching them that all sides of a story must be looked at to ensure that we are being a s fair as possible in our reporting.
Jose Servin, co editor-in-chief: Our goals as a team were too write factually correct, unbiased news and do it with integrity. I did my best to ensure this by reading every story intended for print or web publication and making sure there were no misspellings or misrepresentations, and assuring that every fact was valid.
ACP: How did the staff ensure the quality of the publication?
CL: Over the years, we have established a number of protocols, ranging from digital beat sheets, assignment sheets, story editing forms that require at least three edits and a page editors and final page checklist. All of these help throughout the editing and design process.
ACP: Is there any one issue, story, photo, package or video that stood out most during the year?
CL: It has to be a story about the lack of transparency between administrators, the faculty and the community at large. The reporter Harold Pierce used multiple FOIA and California Public Records Act requests to establish a history of how college administrators and public information officers routinely withheld vital information from the press, prior restrained employees and had a de facto gag order on faculty that strongly advised them to not talk to the press.
The PRA’s revealed multiple mentions of el Don and of professional reporters from The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register and ways to either keep information away from the press or to deny interview requests. Harold’s reporting also proved that a college PIO lied about keeping faculty, staff and administrators from talking to el Don, explicitly telling them to never talk to el Don editors or reporters.
ACP: Tell us about a hardship or obstacle you felt your staff overcame.
CL: Our city sits in the heart of one of the wealthiest counties in America, yet most of our students come from severely disadvantaged homes. The average annual family income for our students sits well below the national poverty average.
Many of our students have never owned a computer, had access to the Internet or owned a cell phone. The majority of our students speak Spanish as their first language and only one editor had access to a car last year, which makes it a nightmare when traveling to games and other off campus events. Our computers are more than nine years old and cannot run any of the current software or operating systems. The Apple spinning disc of death is the enemy of the newsroom.
JM: The majority of our staff are full-time students who work and have families to take care of. To just overcome all of these daily hardships and be able to accomplish the production of the el Don is a very rewarding experience.
ACP: What qualities will you remember the most about this Pacemaker-winning staff?
CL: Their hard work, determination and togetherness. They quickly became a journalism family.
ACP: What does the Pacemaker mean to you and your staff?
CL: It means that hard work pays off. Winning the National Pacemaker Award is the first goal our students set each year, and it is the honor they strive to achieve.
JM: It is an honor to receive a Pacemaker, it’s a representation of the hard work that our entire staff does as a team. To be recognized for it gives us a feeling of achievement.
JS: It means a sign of excellence to always strive for and an honor that can only be attained through diligent work.