Weinberg, Steve. A Journalism of Humanity: A Candid History of the World's First Journalism School. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2008. 283 pp. $34.95.
Steve Weinberg's history of the famous school of journalism at the University of Missouri is perhaps best described as an arm of the "Missouri Mafia." That affectionate term refers to the fact that Missouri J-school students, faculty, and graduates look out for one another.
That is what the author's history does. A journalism professor at Missouri, he celebrates the J-school's centennial by embracing the stories of many who were associated with the school over the past 100 years. He is right in saying the details are candid; he includes stories of people who were disgruntled, fired, and upset alongside those who learned a lot, loved the school, and succeeded. Thus, if you are a Missouri grad or attended there or even attended one of Missouri's satellite programs in various parts of the world, you will no doubt find a name that you know and an incident that you remember.
But what about the rest of us? Does Weinberg's history ring any bells outside of the Missouri Mafia?
One thing that media historians outside of the Missouri circle will find interesting is the detailed story of Frank Luther Mott, a dean of the Missouri J-school. He was well known by a generation of journalism students at Missouri and nearly as well known by non-Missourians who read his American Journalism: A History, 1690-1960 in journalism history classes. As Weinberg explains, Mott was brought in as the first traditional scholar to serve as dean at the school. Prior to that, career journalists who had not had a traditional academic background led the school. Indeed, the founder of the journalism school, the visionary Walter Williams, had not even gone to college but eventually became J-school dean and then president of the university.
Williams' story is even more interesting than Mott's. As Weinberg's study makes clear, it was Williams' non-academic background that drove his concept of what journalism education should be. In establishing the "Missouri Method" of journalism education, he valued hands-on work in the media above all else, establishing a format that allows Missouri today to boast an enviable set of on-campus opportunities for hands-on media work by its students. Journalism schools across the nation adopted his model as gospel in the way to approach journalism/media education. …