Student media has long been a part of the history of San Diego City College.
City College celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014. Yearbooks from the 1920s point to the existence of a student newspaper early in the college’s history, although no known copies exist.
City Times, the student newspaper for San Diego City College, began in 1945 as The Jay Sees, playing off the term “JC” for junior college for what was then San Diego Junior College.
First printed as a mimeographed newsletter, then later on newsprint in a tabloid-size format, the paper ran stories and photos on news, sports and features in a professional design for its day.
In 1949, the paper’s name was changed to The Fortknightly, reflecting the publication’s frequency and the college’s mascot, the Knights.
In 1956-57, San Diego City College’s journalism program became a founding member of the Journalism Association of Community Colleges. JACC’s first convention was held at the El Cortez Hotel in downtown San Diego, just a few blocks away from campus.
There were three related publications from the 1960s through the ’80s. The longest-running, according City Times archives, was Tecolote, a night school newspaper produced at the City College campus but serving all three district campuses – City, Mesa and Miramar. Tecolote was absorbed by City Times in the 1980s.
Knight Owl, published in the ’60s, was the original evening college student newspaper and eventually morphed into Tecolote. There was also a City College feature newspaper called Flicks.
In addition to these other newspapers, San Diego City College published a yearbook called Legend.
The campus newspaper was christened The City Times in 1978 as a way to update the paper’s image. “The” was dropped from the name in 1995.
In 1993, City College’s award-winning journalism program was cut for political and budgetary reasons, with a newsletter-style publication taking the newspaper’s place. Although it was still City Times, the content and production were drastically cut back. The concept of a student staff was dropped entirely. Memberships and involvement in JACC and Associated Collegiate Press were dropped.
In 2003, faculty and administration launched an effort to rebuild the City College journalism program. With a new adviser, the newsletter-style City Times was scrapped and replaced with a full newspaper for the first time in nearly 10 years. Memberships in JACC, ACP and professional organizations were restored.
In summer 2004, City Times won its first award in more than 10 years when it received a second-place ribbon for general excellence in the college newspaper category from the San Diego County Fair. That success was followed by several more awards in 2005, including awards for writing, photography and general excellence. The paper also received a $1,500 grant from the California Newspaper Publishers Association for new equipment. It received a $500 CNPA grant in 2008.
The new tradition of quality student journalism continued in 2006 with a first-place honor for Best Newspaper from the American Scholastic Press Association and a second-place award for Best College Newspaper from the Society of Professional Journalists’ San Diego chapter. That was followed by first-place and Best in Class awards from the San Diego County Fair. In 2008, the American Scholastic Press Association recognized City Times for outstanding community service for its coverage of the October 2007 firestorm.
2007 marked another major turning point for City Times with the hiring of the first full-time journalism professor (Roman S. Koenig) in at least 25 years. The hiring of a full-time faculty member for journalism meant the development of new courses and a degree/certificate program to help current students become tomorrow’s professional journalists.
San Diego City College’s current Digital Journalism program, launched in 2013, is designed to merge the traditions of journalism and print production with a changing technological and economic landscape. The program was also designed to develop direct collaboration with what is now know at the Radio, Television and Film program, which includes television and radio, and other programs such as photography, all of which are unique to City College within the San Diego Community College District.
The launch of the program also marked the return of Legend, now in the form of a new City College student news magazine.
After the departure of Koenig as full-time professor in 2013, the program was run by a dedicated team of adjuncts. The program was also temporarily relocated to the Business and Technology building while the north side of campus was renovated.
In 2018, Nicole Vargas was brought in as a full-time journalism professor of Digital Journalism and adviser to the City Times and Legend. Although both had a web presence, that marked the formal push into the digital-first, print-second-and-better production model for both student news publications. Multimedia production was expanded to include video, podcasts and a wide range of interactive projects.
The Digital Journalism program returned to its home in the L building in advance of the fall 2020 semester with the opening of the DJRN News Lab. It serves not only as the home base and primary collaborative learning space for Digital Journalism classes, but features the newsrooms and multimedia production spaces for City Times and Legend.
The start of 2020 marked the formal debut of City College News Network, the umbrella organization for all student-produced media on campus. It opened the door to expanded collaboration between City Times and Legend and Newscene, the student-produced weekly television news broadcast, and Student-Delivered Sound, more commonly known as SDS Radio. CCNN’s collaboration was on full display in March 2020, when students from the three organizations covered the California Primaries from Election Central in Downtown San Diego’s Golden Hall.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 meant City College’s physical campus was closed as of March 16. But the staff of the City Times remained committed to producing high-quality, digitally-driven news content remotely. City Times rolled out a new mobile app and Legend was produced as a COVID-19 commemorative edition.
– Shared with permission from Roman S. Koenig.