Innovation Pacemaker Entry: el Don’s Year of Zines

As a news outlet at a two-year institution, the el Don and its audience are ever-changing. Even when we’re not returning after 17 months of online learning during a global pandemic, every semester brings new topics and concerns to cover — and new ways in which to present the information. Because of this, innovation isn’t an afterthought in our newsroom, it’s a necessity.

In the first weeks of the semester, everyone on staff is required to do an information needs assessment to begin the process of engaging with our fellow students on campus. We set up el Don tables at on-campus events and interview students who walk by. Other students go into their neighborhoods and talk to neighbors instead.

During the 2021-2022 academic year, el Don news media staff used the results of these information needs assessments to develop an entirely new print product strategy, one that would redefine service journalism in our community and rethink how a print edition can fill the large information gaps left by isolation and the pandemic.

Welcome to what we’ve been calling “el Don’s Year of Zines.”

A zine is a self-published, non-commercial print-work that is typically produced in small, limited batches. We also produced three “big print” issues during the academic year, but it was our re-designed zine products that had the most impact on our campus. Making zines allowed our staff to interact in-person with our community and give our audience a new means to physically engage with their student media outlet.

In all, el Don staff over the last two semesters created two Back to School zines, three editions of a newsmagazine, one community storytelling zine, one 16-page mental health zine and no less than five 4-page single-topic zines (on everything from How to Transfer to a 4 Year College and Guide to House Plants). Anywhere between 50 and 1600 copies of each were printed and distributed on campus and around the city.

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For your consideration for the 2022 Innovation Pacemaker Award, we humbly present the above video summary of our innovative print product and links below to all of the information about our Year of Zines.

Print our zines!

Below are chronological links to the website posts for each zine that staff created, each of which includes a printable PDF version of the zine so anyone can print their own copies at home.

“Santa Ana Stories” Community Storytelling Zine Workshop w/ el Don

On March 5, 2022, Editor in Chief Kate G. Bustamante and Social Media Editor Miranda Navarro held a Community Storytelling Zine Workshop during our local Boca de Oro Literary Festival to interact with our Santa Ana community and teach others how to make zines. This event was hosted at a local venue and brought people of different ages together to create the “Santa Ana Stories” zine, a physical collaboration which told everyone’s own community story and was put together into one booklet. Everyone left the workshop with a physical copy of the zine to take home.

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