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Texas advisers find happiness at universities

Community College Journalist -- Fall 2001

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Can community college newspaper advisers find happiness by moving to universities?

Dr. Joe Norton and Bob Bajackson know the answer by now because each made such a move in 1999.

Norton had been with the Tarrant County College system, which is in the Fort Worth area, for 30 years. When his campus offered teachers the opportunity to retire with a financial incentive, he decided to take it. He had already been working at the University of Dallas, a small private school, on a part-time basis. After retirement from TCC, he focused his efforts on advising the newspaper at UD.

Bajackson had worked as newspaper adviser at the Eastfield College campus of the Dallas County Community College District for 13 years when he was chosen as adviser for the University Star, the newspaper of Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos.

Why did Bajackson make the decision to move? "The challenge of bringing a paper back into prominence was very intriguing," he says. "There were some challenges to overcome with the Star. I felt that my community college background in publications provided the necessary confidence to address those challenges."

Advising at the university level is considerably different from advising at a community college, however. Norton observes that university students are very different because they have very good writing skills before they come into his classes, although most of them aren't yet familiar with journalistic style. "In class they are different in that they come to class most of the time, and they show a real interest in developing their writing skills," he says. "In fact, a student can be in an editorial position without being enrolled in a journalism class."

Norton adds: "At UD, students take full responsibility for the production of the newspaper, and I can truly be an adviser. I advise before publication on copy when asked and on design and makeup when asked. Students make the decisions. After publication, I give extensive critiques about what the staff did right and wrong."

He notes that he does not have the budget responsibilities he had at the community college level. The TCC newspaper serves the entire four-campus district, but the UD newspaper is a much smaller operation because the total enrollment at UD is slightly more than 3,000 students, of which only about 1,200 are undergraduates.

The changes for Bajackson are somewhat different because of SWTSU's large enrollment – well above 20,000. Advising a daily newspaper involves more administrative responsibilities than advising a community college paper published every two weeks. And a university newspaper has to make money, Bajackson says: "Yes, advertising sales are very, very important. The Star is an income-generating account. We have to be accountable to the university at the end of the fiscal year. In other words, we cannot run a deficit." He notes that he works in a variety of areas in addition to the budget, including answering various kinds of questions ranging from ethics to design.

After two years on the job, both Norton and Bajackson are happy. "I don't regret for a moment my decision to take the part-time position of running the journalism and student publications program at the University of Dallas," he says. "I had a wonderful career, but I was ready for relief." He now works three days a week and goes home during the middle of the afternoon, telling the staff members to contact him by phone or e-mail if they have questions.

Bajackson says he doesn't regret his decision, either: "So far, it has been a very rewarding and fulfilling experience."

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