Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Minority Journalism Educators in Higher Education

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Minority Journalism Educators in Higher Education

Article excerpt

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Minority Journalism Educators In Higher. Education

To paraphrase a classic comedian, full-time minority journalism educators just "don't get no respect" from their colleagues in academia or in the media.

Many of the academy's underpinning values are based on maintaining an exclusive, elite class language that speaks only to other academicians, not to the masses.

Journalism professors of any color can research themselves until they turn various shades of blue, but many university administrators and faculty members will never see journalism as more than a bunch of skills courses. UCLA for example, stripped its journalism department of its academic status by placing it in the continuing education department.

In the media, journalists who do more than teach an occasional course as adjunct professors, are viewed with suspicion. For example, journalism educators cannot be full members of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). Dr. Linda Callahan, former journalist and now head of the communication department at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina, could not vote in the NABJ national elections although she is the president of the Columbus, Ohio NABJ chapter.

Add to this predicament the well documented problem professionals of color have gaining respect and equity in any profession, and the recipe for journalism educators' job dissatisfaction seems complete. To test this hypothesis, I sought out minority journalism and mass communication (JMC) faculty across the country. Of the 234 professors I found, a whopping 83 percent responded. I asked them why they became journalism educators and if they were likely to remain in academia. I found that despite the frustrations, most minority journalism educators report that the opportunity to help students of color makes them tenuously hold on to what would otherwise be a hard-knocks life -- oh yeah.

The glass ceiling hangs dangerously low for most minority journalism educators. When compared to whites in the field, we are disproportionately concentrated in the lower ranks and untenured as are many minority college professors in other disciplines, though more faculty of color (69.1 percent) compared to white journalism faculty members, reported having earned doctorates. Most of the J-faculty of color also reported significant, full-time professional media experience.

Yet the majority of these dually qualified professionals were also generally dissatisfied with their jobs because:

- There were more politics, bureaucracy or lack of funds than they anticipated (28.6 percent);

- They perceived that journalism education, or their program in particular, did not adequately prepare students or was disorganized (24.1 percent);

- Students were more poorly prepared than expected (19.7 percent); or

- There was more racism or sexism than they had anticipated (17.8 percent).

The perception that "politics" was the most important way in which their expectations were not met, and the most relevant factor in their decision to leave the field, was common to most race and gender groups.

The perception of many minority journalism educators that politics, bureaucracy or lack of funds were the biggest obstacles to remaining in education is directly related to the manifestations of institutional racism in academia. As one said, "I find many journalism educators rooted in past assumptions that assimilation should be a prerequisite for participation and [are] unwilling to recognize that we should not be forced to give up who we are in order to become who we want to be."

Another educator said, "I am frustrated with the `lip service' of higher education to the need for minority students, minority faculty and ethnic studies requirements but [in truth they are] taking no real steps to accomplish their stated goals."

A few responses coded as "politics, bureaucracy or lack of funds" obviously referred to the minority educator's surprise that the academic modus operandi is slow and cumbersome when compared to commercial industry. …

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