As the 21st century approaches, mass media educators are in the midst of a decades-long debate over the nature and purpose of mass media education. Some of its most pressing challenges are related to changes in curriculum because of the evolution of the media industries and new technologies. But perhaps the most vexing questions are related to its structure: Should it exist as an integrated field, merge with other communication subfields, or fragment into two or more separate fields? Media educators also must continue to respond to practitioners who ask whether mass media education is really necessary. How such issues are resolved will have a profound effect on media-related education in the new century as well as on the media industries they serve. The purpose of this book is to give the reader--not only media educators but also media practitioners and others interested in academic issues--some understanding of how media-related education has evolved as well as the nature of the debate that threatens to cause the disintegration of mass media education into separate academic fields.
The story of mass media education parallels to a large extent the story of the evolution of higher education from the classical college to the modern comprehensive university. Its precursors and founders were some of the main players in U.S. government, public life, and higher education of their day--sage, journalist, and politician Benjamin Franklin; general and educator Robert E. Lee; publisher Joseph Pulitzer; and university presidents Charles Eliot of Harvard and Andrew Dickson White of Cornell. The history of mass media education is the story of how the concepts of liberal education and professional education have evolved and intertwined. It also is a story that indicates how higher education has changed to reflect Americans' changing understanding of democracy, citizenship, and the common good.
Any discussion of mass media education necessitates the use of the term journalism in a variety of ways. Because journalism existed as a professional field before the beginning of academic training for journalists, the term journalism began to be used by educators to represent the new field of study. Journalism education developed in departments of English at liberal arts colleges at the same time that departments and professional schools of journalism were established at fledgling comprehensive universities. As coursework in other media-related fields was added to journalism programs, the term journalism continued to be used as an overarching term for the field. With the introduction of the term mass communication in the 1940s, that term also began to be used to refer to the entire field, as well as to professional training for media-related fields other than journalism and to a more-theoretical course of study, also called media studies or communication studies.