Kilgore College is temporarily suspending journalism courses and the production of award-winning campus newspaper The Flare due to dropping enrollment numbers, according to faculty comments at Monday’s teleconferenced board meeting.

Arts and Mathematical Sciences Dean Becky Johnson and journalism instructor Rachel Stallard made the announcement during the meeting, noting they will suspend these activities for one academic year while working on a “reinvention of the current journalism concentration.”

“For the last few years, the journalism area has been declining for a variety of reasons. I think what’s happening is mirroring what’s happening in the commercial journalism industry. People just aren’t picking up newspapers to read to get their news. Instead they are turning to TV, radio, social media, so print journalism is definitely changing in our society,” said Johnson, noting many print newspapers are opting for more online news coverage.

“At this point, we don’t have enough students enrolled to keep the program going as it is. We think it is the right time to do the right thing for students. We have tried to invigorate the program,” she added, pointing to a one-week summer workshop to bring new students into the program, a modern redesign of The Flare’s print format and an effort to bring in more dual-credit students from local high schools.

However, in order to “reinvent the way we offer this journalism career path so we meet the needs of students in the 21{sup}st{/sup} century,” Johnson and Stallard “have decided, for the next academic year, we will suspend journalism courses and the production of The Flare while we work to reinvent this program.”

“We have 19 total students taking up 39 enrollment spots,” Stallard said.

“The main problem is that those 19 students do a lot of the work and some of those aren’t even majors, but 8 of those are graduating, one will be transferring and three of those students lack one course before they graduate. Taking a year off and restructuring the program, is the right way to reward these students for their hard work.”

She added she would oversee efforts to let journalism students coordinate with KC’s marketing department to develop skills used in graphic design and newsletter production before they could return to their journalism studies. She noted Stephen F. Austin University, her alma mater, recently made a similar decision by taking their paper online-only.

“I’m excited,” she said. “It’s going to be a neat restructure.”

Also at the meeting, trustees announced repair work will get underway on KC’s pedestrian bridge, which was demolished last May after being damaged when a passing truck collided with the structure.

The damage to the bridge forced college officials to close the walkway and prompted authorities to close the road underneath, sending drivers detouring down several surrounding streets and spurring long traffic backups near the closed section of the state highway.

A temporary solution was forwarded when the college installed a crosswalk for students and faculty to use when attending classes around campus. The crosswalk, which is controlled by button-activated traffic lights, was set up last July and has been in use since then.

Trustees voted to

Jon Rowe, chair of the college’s Property and Facilities Committee, made the announcement.

“Please be advised that the college has issued an RFQ (request for quotes) associated with the engineering and construction administration services for the restoration of the pedestrian bridge,” Rowe told trustees.

“As noted in the document in your packet, KC will use insurance funds for this project. Responses to the RFQ are due on May 6 of 2020. We will keep you posted on further developments.

Board president Joe Carrington said he, along with the community, was pleased about the development.

“That’s great news. One of our priorities is the safety of our students and we’ll fairly soon have a bridge again,” Carrington said.

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