An anthology of writers, visionaries and artists

Published by Amy Latham on

Seven students and their advisor circle around a wooden table. On it is the number 50 is made of their newspaper with green graffiti scattered around it. To the upper left are eight golden star balloons. On the lower left one student is hugging a different star balloon.
The Mainstream celebrates the 50th anniversary of publication. In the back from left to right is Angelena Dawson – Social Media Director, Gerardo Lopez – Videographer, Molly Kay – Leading Editor and Matthew Raeburn – Reporter. Below, from left to right are Jace Boyd – reporter, Melinda Benton – Advisor, Jazmin Ode – Managing Editor and Amy Latham – senior reporter. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

Editor’s Note: Our senior reporter interviewed 2023-24 staff members of The Mainstream. She organized their experience and lessons learned to capture the essence of the current members’ work. The reporter also shares a bit of her own experiences on The Mainstream in this third part of our four-part anniversary series. See the first part here and the second part here.

A formidable workload looms ahead; a nonnegotiable printer deadline is in less than two hours; it is already Thursday at 6:03 p.m. and The Mainstream’s print editor is determined. “There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.” Robin Bailey, print editor, sits at his computer as he analyzes every aspect of his layout. This is the reality of The Mainstream: hours of work, hundreds of stories to share and so little time to do so.

As award-winning student media, The Mainstream currently comprises 12 staff and one advisor -– each with their own staff position, inspiration and story.

Woman with short blonde hair sits left and faces into the camera. She is wearing dark framed glasses and a plaid shirt.
Melinda Benton has worked as the advisor of The Mainstream for 21 years. In addition to advising the publication, she is also a media and communications professor at Umpqua Community College. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

Melinda Benton has served as The Mainstream’s advisor for the past 21 years and is the longest-serving UCC media advisor. She is often found in her office working long after many students and staff are gone, grading and editing papers for The Mainstream before publication. In addition, she also manages equipment and supplies; supervises the staff to ensure they stay out of legal trouble and stay on top of deadlines, creates new learning experiences, develops team culture, trouble shoots technical issues and provides quality control. Her dedication to The Mainstream has allowed so many of her students to thrive in her class and years after.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday, the staff sit around the four tables pushed together for a staff meeting. Jazmin Ode, managing editor, stands at the whiteboard going over the week’s assignments. The staff will have six days to schedule and conduct interviews in addition to writing and editing the articles. The Mainstream covers a variety of topics from new staff to events on or around campus to new programs soon to be available for students.

Ode, along with other staff on The Mainstream, collectively dedicate over forty hours a week total to the publication. This includes the interviews, writing, editing, layout designs, photography, videography, social media posting and publication.

For many of the staff, working for The Mainstream is a second job. “It has allowed me to improve my skills for my resume I would not have received otherwise,” Amy Latham, a reporter, says.

A group of students and their advisor discuss ideas around a wooden table. On top of the table are laptops and notebooks being used by the students. Along the walls  towards the back right of the image are photos of past articles.
The Mainstream staff discuss story ideas and give suggestions for angles and who to interview. The staff meet every Wednesday and Thursday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. A few staff members, however, often can still be found in The Mainstream room a few hours after the meetings have ended. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

“Everything has a spark. It’s your job as a writer to find it and show it to the world,” says Ode. As the managing editor, she helps design and choose the content of the publication, keeps track of deadlines, studies audience analytics, promotes staff morale and helps supervise other student staff. She also acts as a liaison with state and national professional journalism organizations. She is often a bridge between students and administrators as she shares students’ stories and needs. Ode’s aspirations lie in becoming an engineering journalist.

Like Ode, several of the writers on the staff aspire to write in their respective careers. For Matthew Raeburn, his genuine love for writing and having the opportunity to hear and share other people’s stories is his favorite part about writing for The Mainstream. “My favorite story was actually my first, which was getting to know about the Hawkshop for a highlight piece that gave me the chance to speak to both students and UCC staff about their experiences,” Raeburn says.

Every day, the staff continually support each other both personally and professionally. The Mainstream is a lot more than a student-run publication. It is a community. “I enjoy my fellow Mainstream staff members’ presence, and I love spotting them on campus as I go about my day, all of us working hard and getting things done the best we can as a team,” Raeburn says. “Writing for the paper has allowed me to improve my public speaking abilities while being the face of an organization.”

Student faces left with her arm raised preparing to ask a question. She is wearing a baseball cap with several pins. Her sweater is a light green and she is holding a winnie-the-pooh bag.
Amaryah Vara, web editor, raises their hand during a staff meeting. As web editor, they post stories on The Mainstream’s website and share analytics for how many views a story has and where in the world stories have reached. Outside the United States, The Mainstream has reached numerous countries including Canada, The UK, the Philippines, China, South Korea and India as of spring term, 2024. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

“Personally, The Mainstream has helped me become more confident in my website design capabilities. Prior to joining, I struggled with embracing my own communication style and not having to perform to be respected,” says Amaryah Vara, web editor. “In working with this team, I’ve been shown that our words are valued. Our opinions matter. This enabled me to speak with confidence to others and more compassionately to myself.”

Vara and Raeburn are not the only people who appreciate the comraderie of The Mainstream. “I love the connections that I have built in The Mainstream, both with my teammates and with the community. I have met so many different types of people and have got to amplify their voices through my photography. It is such a wonderful experience to help others through the work you enjoy,” says Mason Ramirez, the staff’s head photographer.

In addition to Ramirez, Gerardo Lopez also does photography for The Mainstream. “It’s something I had always been intrigued by and wanted to do, but I was scared. When I learned about The Mainstream, I knew I couldn’t let this opportunity go,” Lopez says.

Student faces right with his hands posed close in front of him. He is wearing glasses with light-colored frames and a dark shirt with white stripes on the sleeves. He is smiling off camera.
Robin Bailey, print editor, smiles at his fellow staff member during a meeting. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

Robin Bailey and Madeline Riboli are a two-person print team in charge of designing the layout for the print edition each issue. Before the 2023-2024 school year, the last time The Mainstream had a consistent print edition schedule was 2019. Now, print editions are released bimonthly and feature at least one article from every reporter.

Molly Jerscheid, a natural resources major, was never really one to join school organizations, but when presented with a financial aid offer in the form of a merit award for writing for The Mainstream, she accepted and has written for The Mainstream since. For Jerscheid, meeting people and sharing information with other students for their benefit is something she loves about Mainstream.

Student sits on a chair against a stone wall looking focused. They are wearing a dark sweater with colorful sweatpants. They have a notebook resting on a folded knee and holding a pencil preparing to write down a thought.
Jace Boyd sits as he waits for his interview to start. Jace is a reporter and plans to move to New York after graduation. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

Bailey, Boyd, Latham, Lopez and Ode are also recipients of the six merit awards The Mainstream offers. The merit awards provide the receivers with a twelve-credit tuition waiver on the stipulation of staying in good academic standing.

“The Mainstream gives me and other students a great experience of what working with the media will be like when we eventually split and find jobs in our respective roles while also allowing us extra support and coping skills to succeed,” Boyd says.

For Latham, who plans to transfer to a four-year college after her time at UCC, writing for The Mainstream helps build the pathway for her career goal: a medical journalist. “In a way, The Mainstream changed my life, and it’s done so for the better,” Latham says.

The current Mainstream staff is featured below.

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For more articles by Amy Latham, please click here.