Magazine article Editor & Publisher

J-Schools Besieged, Not Endangered

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

J-Schools Besieged, Not Endangered

Article excerpt

AN ECLECTIC panel of journalism educators, publishers and liberal arts deans concluded not to list journalism education as an "endangered species" -- but it may need some retooling. The session at the Association for Education in journalism and Mass Communication convention in Atlanta was provoked by a wave of concern sweeping through j-schools and departments as a result of the elimination or proposed elimination of some programs and severe cutbacks or mergers in others.

Some j-schools are "under siegel" declared moderator Everette Dennis, executive director of the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center in New York, a past AEJMC president and a former journalism school dean. Others are undergoing "extraordinary change through administrative reorganization, consolidation and merger."

Among universities, Dennis said, Oregon State's journalism department has been shut down, termination of Arizona's department has been recommended, Michigan's communications program is in a kind of "academic receivership," Ohio State's program may be consolidated and Western Ontario's Graduate School of journalism was saved at the last minute by a university senate vote.

Also, journalism departments of the 21-campus California State University are facing the toughest budget cuts in their history. Some may be terminated.

But panel's overall assessment was less than gloomy. It was generally agreed, for example, that most of the larger and better recognized schools of journalism or communication - Missouri, Syracuse, Northwestern, Columbia, Texas, Florida and others - will unquestionably survive, although they, too, are under budget constraints.

Even most smaller units will stay alive, although some panelists hinted they reexamine their objectives.

The two non-journalism deans, suggesting journalism administrators and faculty feel too put upon, pointed out that virtually all university disciplines are caught in a budget squeeze.

Randall Ripley, dean of Ohio State's College of Social & Behavorial Sciences, said his university lost $95 million in state support last year. His college called "downsizing" the order of the day and may merge its journalism school and communication department.

"But we're still very much in business and expect to be doing selective hiring in the next five years," Ripley said. "Journalism is not under any threat. The centrality of nine departments to the university's mission is also being debated."

Lee Becker, interim director of Ohio State's journalism school, said he was not concerned about merging with another discipline.

"Such a merger is not unprecedented," he added.

John Chamberlin, associate dean for academic appointments at the University of Michigan and interim chairman of the communication department, said his appointment was not driven by budget problems but by a lack of leadership.

"It was a department at odds with itself", he said. "It did not have a sense of mission."

Chamberlin insisted that in assigning him chairman, the university was not displaying hostility to the department's degree programs.

"This is happening to other departments," he said. "Michigan is a research university. journalism and communication programs in a liberal arts college may be subject to some pressures."

Detroit News editor and publisher Robert Giles, who heads the journalism accreditation council, said j-schools currently in trouble "are not typical cases." He predicted the stronger schools will stay strong and be on the cutting edge of changes in the field. …

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