A digital window into our past

Albert Gregory, Managing Editor

Pearl Harbor. The Loma Prieta earthquake. Watergate. You can now go back and read about these historic events and more in old copies of The Oak Leaf newspaper from 1924-2000 that are now available online.

Former Student Government Assembly leaders spearheaded and found funding for the digitazation project.

Approaching the 100th anniversary of Santa Rosa Junior College, SGA and SRJC faculty and staff have compiled these historic copies on the California Digital Newspaper Collections website (cdnc.edu).

“As we move into a more online format in The Oak Leaf’s 90th year, it brings me some measure of comfort that we have preserved the history online,” said the Oak Leaf adviser and journalism instructor Anne Belden. “I also think it’s a great tool for students and journalist to compare then and now.”

The first available issue of The Oak Leaf, which was then called Bear Facts, is from Dec. 12, 1924 and allows readers a window to understand the culture of students during that era. Stories included the creation of the Associated Women Students Organization, the annual football banquet and reminders of the upcoming Christmas party.

Over time, the coverage became much more hard-hitting as student journalists printed articles covering the attack on Pearl Harbor and later the 1969 Santa Rosa earthquakes.

During World War II, The Oak Leaf’s Jan. 12, 1945 issue ran letters of SRJC students who were fighting overseas. The Oak Leaf sent newspapers to the students and the students responded with letters.

A quote from one of the letters read, “The copies of The Oak Leaf, too, are wonderful to get for they bring memories of my association with it, an experience I treasure. The students producing the paper today in the face of odds are doing a wonderful job and revel a swell spirit by their administration. As long as American youth have such determination to see things through, regardless of odds, how can liberty and justice for all of us help but prevail in one world?”

In recent years, The Oak Leaf has continued to cover local and global events. This year, this student-run newspaper was arguably faced with one of its toughest tasks: covering the North Bay fires.

One of the people who led this digitization project was former SGA President and current Inter-Club Council Chair Joshua Pinaula.

“To my knowledge, there had been many groups that wanted to have The Oak Leaf digitized and for a long time, but it seemed like no one had the time to figure out the exact steps on how to do it,” he said.

Pinaula, a history major, faced many roadblocks trying to achieve this project.

“In the end, this project was a student-lead initiative, and it’s one that took a lot more work than you may think,” he said. “When I first started, I was told that we should ‘put a pin in it,’ and later in meetings, there was a point where I had to really emphasize, ‘I’ve acquired $20,000 to get this project done!’ I’m only the student body president until the end of this academic year, this is the only opportunity that we will have to get this kind of funding—we’re getting this done now.”

Pinaula understands that a student reading “SGA pays $20,000 to digitize student newspaper” might to be critical of the SGA.

“I wanted to explain that we were using the reserves, a restricted revenue source, the $1 Representation Fee, to do this project,” Pinaula said.

The $1 Representation Fee is restricted to being used for representational issues. There’s a very small list of things that those funds can be used for, but one of those things is a student newsletter. In this case he made an argument for The Oak Leaf.

Pinaula gives most of the credit to Curriculum Technician Adrienne Leihy for the success of this project.

“I was able to obtain the funding and get the project started, but Adrienne really helped facilitate all the communications between all the involved departments and getting the project finished,” Pinaula said.  “I also want to thank the SRJC archives for embracing the digital age—digitizing our yearbooks is the next project!”

In the midst of its coverage this semester, The Oak Leaf has also been transitioning to a mostly online publication. Although the paper has run three print issues, most of this semester’s content can be found online at www.theoakleafnews.com.

As the paper transitions away from print, The Oak Leaf developed an app, which is available in the Apple App Store or in the Google Play store.