2009 Assessment of the Status of Diversity Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Programs

Article excerpt

This article assesses the status of diversity education in 2008-2009 in both accredited and non-accredited journalism and mass communication programs in U.S. colleges and universities. Using survey responses from 105 academic programs, findings support earlier studies that found the number of special courses on media diversity is increasing steadily. Findings also identify a preference for integrating diversity content across the curriculum. Among factors pushing these improvements are accreditation standards and an increasing multicultural environment.

It is clear that diversity is being given higher priority in journalism/mass communication education and in the accrediting process of academic programs as an imperative for attaining educational and professional excellence. Diversity often is identified as essential for a high-quality educational curriculum that equips students, the future practitioners, with the spirit of inclusivity to achieve "complete representation of the communities they serve."1

Earlier studies recognized a growing trend of special courses on diversity in JMC programs.2 This is especially significant as scholars argue that attaining the diversity standard in JMC education depends not only on increasing representation of minority students and faculty but also on expanding efforts toward achieving multicultural or diversity-oriented curricula.3

Discussions about the importance of formulating diversity-oriented curricula gained major impetus in the early 1990s. Researchers then asked whether JMC programs should offer only separate or special courses on diversity or whether they should infuse diversity issues throughout the curriculum.4 Many believe integration of diversity across curriculum is important, as confining diversity-related issues to separate courses can isolate the issue of diversity in JMC education.

By diversity in media education, this study refers to any teaching or research about race, ethnicity, gender, physical ability, sexual orientation, age, social class, or multiculturalism in general, either in contemporary or historical contexts of mass communication and offered at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Also, diversity is referred to as a tool of learning, which should preferably be included across the curriculum.

In this context, this study analyzes JMC program curricula with two purposes. First, it seeks information about the status of media diversity education in both accredited and non-accredited JMC programs at U.S. universities during 2008-2009. In examining the state of diversity education in JMC programs, this study deals with the content of diversity-related courses, levels, and types of such offerings, and enrollment averages.

Second, the study seeks to develop an understanding about preferred teaching approaches, which mainly refer to media educators' preferred design of curricula in teaching diversity, e.g., offering separate courses on diversity, infusing diversity content across the curricula, or both. In support of this understanding, information also was sought on why media diversity scholars and programs see diversityoriented curricula as important.

Diversity and Journalism/ Mass Communication Education

Accreditation standards of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC), adopted in 2003, give more priority to "diversity and inclusiveness" in the accrediting process.5 The first two indicators of Standard 3 require a program to have a written diversity plan "for achieving an inclusive curriculum" apart from recruitment of a diverse faculty and student population and to have a curriculum - including journalism, media studies, political communication, public relations, advertising, and visual communication - that "fosters understanding of issues and perspectives that are inclusive in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation."6

Ruggles points out that, as far back as 1947, the Hutchins Commission report gave some priority to the need to diversify journalism education. …