Teaching a New Generation of Journalists: Should Journalism Professors Be Experienced Newspersons or Credentialed Academians?

By Lawson, James C. | Black Issues in Higher Education, September 5, 1996 | Go to article overview

Teaching a New Generation of Journalists: Should Journalism Professors Be Experienced Newspersons or Credentialed Academians?


Lawson, James C., Black Issues in Higher Education


Teaching a New Generation of Journalists: Should Journalism Professors Be. Experienced Newspersons Or Credentialed Academians?

Professor Chuck Stone, an awarding winning journalist, earns new honors these days in an arena where few minorities perform. On the faculty of the University of North Carolina, he is among the scant number of professionals who have jettisoned themselves out of the bustling newsroom to pursue new dreams -- teaching the next generation of journalists.

Once a rarity in the newsroom, he shattered the obstacles and his well-earned legacy now assures that he's no classroom novelty.

As a distinguished endowed chair professor, his new profession is more than a retirement nest. Thoroughly prepared to meet the new challenges and fully intent on building a new legacy, Stone wants to champion the drive for diversity in college journalism programs.

During the annual convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in August, he told attendees: "Together, I hope that we can find a way to teach and implement diversity in journalism education and make the world a happier expression of God's multiculturalism."

He also encourages students to pursue journalism by simply telling them "journalism is one of the most honored professions." That line has been the right buzz words a few times. He has convinced a few students to make the switch.

This task, Stone contends, is vital if talented minds are to be ushered into the Fourth Estate. "We have to compete against other areas for the brightest Black students," he says. "We need to make them realize there are opportunities. I've had three, four students switch over. I tell them that the founding of America goes back to journalism."

Perhaps his most significant message is, "I also tell them don't take courses. Take teachers. Find out who are the best teachers and take them."

As a professor, his mission is to "show students how to think critically and develop writing skills they can use, even if they don't become a journalist."

Winds of Change

"Winds of Change: Whither Journalism Education?", a recent report by the well-respected Freedom Forum, warned that "faculty expertise has diminished increasingly by the hiring of people with no or limited experience as journalist." According to the report, 17 percent of journalism educators have never worked as fulltime journalist. An additional 47 percent have less than 10 years experience as journalists.

The trend toward less experience is apparent.

The doctoral degree is now much more important than journalistic experience as a requirement for teaching journalism. A phone survey of the 117 schools that advertised for new journalism teaching positions in 1994-95 revealed that only 45 percent required professional experience. Fifty-two percent of the schools said a doctorate was required.

Meanwhile, some colleges seek diversity and more faculty members with practical experience. With this dilemma, Stone challenges fellow journalists to take advantage. He asks them to consider sharing their finely honed talents as college educators. Needless to say, African Americans and veteran newsroom pros are in demand.

So few African Americans are involved in the post-secondary journalism educational process that media organizations, often criticized for their diversity shortcomings, do a better job than colleges. The National Association of Black Journalists estimates that 5 percent of the nation's newsrooms are African Americans. In the 1970s, when journalism fever ran high in the aftermath of Watergate, African Americans were scarce in the newsroom. Few were editors. During the urban tension times when ethnic-sensitive stories took on a new meaning, they made up 3.5 percent of the newsroom culture.

Critics believe a major push is needed to awaken administrators and shape hiring and curriculum development practices. African Americans still hold only six percent of the nation's fulltime faculty positions. …

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