Thursday, March 26, 2009

No Boredom at Board Meeting

City Council, County and School "Board" meeting have the potential to be just that...boring. The photos usually lead to a individual seated behind a desk sitting talking into a microphone. The dialogue can be very enticing, but visually it leads itself to a unexciting image. Most of the time mugshots of the councilors work best.

Ever so often the press is treated with a gem of a photo opportunity. These opportunities don't come with great assurance in that those board meetings are the most controversial. They contain some big of decision that will lead to a group, big or small, unhappy with the outcome.

Music parent Colleen Kavanagh holds a sign during a Chico Unified School District meeting Wednesday. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

This strong visual with hardship story is the type that happened the other day. Wednesday the Chico Unified School District Board was faced with a tough decision on whether to face running out of funding in the fall semester or make disturbing cuts in layoff and programs to the district. Parents, teachers and other school and community representatives came out to show their support to keep the funding intact. The images show the controversy that followed.

I wasn't initially assigned to cover the school board meeting as for the aforementioned reason. The meeting was thought to be another insightful, yet visually dull meeting. I received a call from the reporter about the number of community members who came out to voice their opinion of the subject. After receiving the call, I talked with the editors and a conclusion was drawn that we had not allocated enough room in the print paper to give adequate coverage for the story. I told the reporter, "Not unless someone busts out a #2 pencils and starts stabbing people, are we going to have room for any art."

Parents, students and community members holds a sign during a Chico Unified School District meeting that discussed budget cuts Wednesday. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

This brings a huge part of what newspapers and journalism as a whole faces everyday with the decline of the economy (more on that later). My night was looking pretty open, and I decided to see what the commotion looked like for myself. The reporter had stressed the need for a photo request from the scene. I drove down to the City Council Chambers and found a packed room full of supporters of school funding. I began to take pictures of the children and parents who created signs for the occasion. This was the visual impact I was needing.

Brian Corbit, parent of a Chico High student, holds a sign during a Chico Unified School District meeting Wednesday.(Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

During the meeting I was able to listen to the discussion of what the city was making their decisions on. The was a presentation by Assistant superintendent Jan Combes about the school budget, or should I say lack of budget. The district faced a deficit of $9.7 million unless the cuts were made. Those cuts only would shrink the budget deficit to about half down to $4.8 million. Thought not enough to gain a positive, pushing for the cuts would give the district help in obtaining a cash-flow loan to assist with funding the budget.

School Board member Andrea L. Thompson holds her hands to her mouth as she looks over the presentation on the cuts being addressed to the district during a Chico Unified School District meeting Wednesday. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

The community came out to say no to the cuts. But the controversy was the fact that the district without these cuts would allow the government to step in. With the government taking control of the district, all local decisions wouldn't be allowed to be heard. This would cause much hardship for the schools in the future.

Evan Goodson, 13, of Chico Junior High, addresses the Chico Unified School District board on why he loves music in school.(Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)
There were many photographic opportunities for me at the meeting with parents holding signs in opposition to the cuts. After returning from the meeting, I came back to the office were there were no news holes to place any artwork. Though I created a photo gallery and placed several photos with the story online, the news print suffered. The story was lost in the pages of the print. This is the effects the economy has had on the newspapers across the country. With our funding being hindered by other Internet sales and with decreased business support, the newspaper is unable to provide its readerships with...well, with the news. This huge story that effects the whole community isn't giving the proper coverage it needs in order to get the story out to the public. There are so many sides of the story that are being missed because we don't have the space.

I was glad to have the opportunity to take it upon myself to give this issue the coverage that it deserves. Hopefully someone will see the images and be impacted to do something to help. This is the bond the newspapers serve to the community and why we as journalist never are bored with our job, no matter how dim the outlook.

No comments:

Post a Comment