Can Scholarly Associations Be Heard beyond the Academy?

Article excerpt

Journalism and mass communication education is a growing field. Students are attracted by opportunities to create content that will inform, entertain, and influence society. Journalism and mass communication industries continue to face a series of challenges, including disruptive technology, which have the potential to profoundly impact the vitality of these industries. The role of media in American society is more critically evaluated than ever. Americans have become increasingly disenchanted with institutions in general and the media in particular, and many are concerned with the clash of business demands with professional practices. So, it is time to consider afresh what role journalism and mass communication education should take in this society.

Of central concern is whether the enterprise of journalism and mass communication education can become a potentially vital source of informa tion and guidance to such diverse publics. To effectively respond to such challenges, our field needs a vision that would include:

(1) A commitment to public discourse and understanding.

(2) Taking a leadership role in dealing with the "societal needs and trends" facing America and the world.

(3) Enhancing communication and understanding through teaching and research, especially in its application to the practice of communication.

This essay focuses on the functions of associations in the journalism and mass communication education process. Our academic associations are critically poised to tackle major issues that are beyond the scope of individual college and university programs. Such issues take us far beyond the typical curricular concerns of mass communication education: how to educate students who are prepared to think intelligently, solve problems creatively, and make decisions about the issues they will face.

Associations can evaluate and speak for the quality and standards of our disciplines. Perhaps best known is ACEJMC, the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, which is responsible for the evaluation of professional journalism and mass communications programs in colleges and universities. Lesser known are activities of associations such as NCA, the National Communication Association, which provides an Advancing the Discipline Program helping communication programs which have found themselves under attack during times of budgetary crisis. Associations can also provide the platform for ensuring appropriate standards in other educational venues. For example, NCA has developed standards for speaking, listening, and media literacy for students in K-12 that have been important in the development of state-based curricular standards. For the twenty standards, the association has established competency statements in the areas of knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors, along with grade-level teaching activities aligned with the standards and competencies.

The ability to display our work is the most familiar aspect of associations to members. Through journals, conventions, and other activities, associations are the touchstone of scholarly productivity. Achieving divisional status within an association is one "coming of age" measurement of a scholarly area. Yet many of the activities of associations are invisible, such as the work of publication committees of all scholarly associations which tackle issues of mission, number, size, and editorship of publications. Associations have devoted considerable time to the discussion of issues of online journals and affiliating with searchable online databases as a way to increase visibility and accessibility without undercutting important revenue streams which make journal production possible. More visible, and currently controversial, is the effort of CCA, the Council for Communication Associations, to attain National Research Council recognition in an effort to increase the demonstrated legitimacy of the discipline and increase access to research funds. …