ASU gets new jour­nal­ism school

School of­fi­cials praise trustees’ vote to el­e­vate pro­gram

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Arkansas - KAT STROMQUIST

newly or­ga­nized school of jour­nal­ism at Arkansas State Univer­sity’s Jones­boro cam­pus will high­light what of­fi­cials say has long been a “mar­quee pro­gram” for the school.

At a meet­ing Fri­day, the univer­sity’s board of trustees voted to for­mally cre­ate the School of Me­dia and Jour­nal­ism within the school’s Col­lege of Liberal Arts and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion. About 330 stu­dents will be un­der the school, a spokesman said.

“We wanted to em­pha­size that we be­lieve in that pro­gram, and make it plain that we do sup­port jour­nal­ism,” says Carl Cates, dean of the Col­lege of Liberal Arts and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion. “While there’ve been changes [in the news in­dus­try], the need for clear and rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion has never been greater.”

Al­though a jour­nal­ism pro­gram had “re­mained in­tact” within the col­lege’s me­dia depart­ment, a 2014-2015 re­or­ga­ni­za­tion had chipped away at its iden­tity, Arkansas State Univer­sity Sys­tem Pres­i­dent Charles Welch said. He men­tioned that re­cent news re­ports had in­ac­cu­rately char­ac­ter­ized the pro­gram as hav­ing been dis­solved.

“We never got rid of or aban­doned our jour­nal­ism pro­grams. We never will,” he said. “We’re proud of this pro­gram.”

But meet­ing with alumni, “this con­cern [about the sta­tus of the jour­nal­ism pro­gram] bub­bled up reg­u­larly,” said ASU-Jones­boro Chan­cel­lor Kelly Dam­p­housse. Fri­day’s vote to cre­ate the school is ex­pected to el­e­vate the pro­gram’s pro­file, while en­gen­der­ing a stronger sense of stu­dent iden­tity and pride.

En­roll­ment at both un­der­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ate jour­nal­ism schools has been on the de­cline na­tion­ally, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the non­profit Knight Foun­da­tion.

Stu­dents may be re­spond­ing to a dearth of jobs, es­pe­cially in print me­dia. A July Pew Re­search Cen­ter re­port found that there were al­most 25 per­cent fewer jobs avail­able in U.S. news­rooms in 2017 as com­pared with 2008.

Al­though he agreed that jour­nal­ism is in a “tough phase,” Dam­p­housse said of­fi­cials at the Jones­boro cam­pus want to con­tinue the univer­sity’s legacy of turn­ing out re­porters, broad­cast­ers and other news pro­fes­sion­als, many of whom have gone on to hold in­flu­en­tial po­si­tions in Arkansas me­dia.

Cates said jour­nal­ism re­tains its im­por­tance in in­form­ing the pub­lic.

“I hap­pen to think jour­nal­ism … is one of the ba­sic keys to our safety and wel­fare as cit­i­zens,” he said. “This coun­try does not ex­ist, and the di­a­logue we have does not ex­ist, if we do not have well­trained jour­nal­ists bring­ing us good in­for­ma­tion. … It’s a na­tional im­per­a­tive.”

The new school also clar­i­fies some struc­tural and re­port­ing is­sues that were cre­ated dur­ing the pre­vi­ous re­or­ga­ni­za­tion, he said. As­sum­ing ap­proval from the rel­e­vant de­part­ments, a na­tional search will take place for the school’s di­rec­tor, who will re­port to Cates.

Ex­ist­ing funds will be re­al­lo­cated to or­ga­nize the school, ac­cord­ing to an an agenda from the ASU board of trustees meet­ing.

In re­cent years, jour­nal­ism and me­dia fac­ulty at ASU have been ex­pand­ing their cur­ricu­lum to in­cor­po­rate cour­ses in newer dis­ci­plines such as mul­ti­me­dia pro­duc­tion and so­cial me­dia man­age­ment, though the em­pha­sis is still in news and edi­to­rial, says Jeff Hank­ins, ASU Sys­tem vice pres­i­dent of strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions

and The eco­nomic Sys­tem Univer­sity de­vel­op­ment. — which of Arkansas in­cludes the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville — also has a jour­nal­ism pro­gram, but Dam­p­housse says the new school is not a di­rect at­tempt to com­pete with that pro­gram, be­yond gen­eral and on­go­ing ef­forts to vie for stu­dents.

“We’re work­ing very hard to re­cruit stu­dents to come to Jones­boro,” he said.

This is the third school cre­ated within a col­lege at the cam­pus. The other two are the School of Nurs­ing within the Col­lege of Nurs­ing and Health Pro­fes­sions and the School of Teacher Ed­u­ca­tion and Lead­er­ship within the Col­lege of Ed­u­ca­tion and Be­hav­ioral Sci­ence.

Os­abuo­hien Amienyi, chair­man of the me­dia depart­ment at ASU-Jones­boro, cheered Fri­day’s vote, which he says will make an al­ready vi­brant pro­gram more vis­i­ble and strengthen its pub­lic-fac­ing iden­tity.

Stu­dent news­pa­per The Her­ald, the Delta Dig­i­tal News Ser­vice and ASU-TV will be housed within the new school, Amienyi said.

He thinks stu­dents will sup­port the change, and that it could bode well for the jour­nal­ism pro­gram’s fu­ture.

“Our stu­dents are still win­ning jour­nal­ism awards across the state, across the re­gion, across the na­tion,” he said. “Now that we have a ded­i­cated unit, per­haps re­sources will be­gin to flow.”

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/MITCHELL PE MASILUN

Arkansas State Univer­sity Sys­tem Pres­i­dent Charles Welch (third from right) said at Fri­day’s board of trustees meet­ing that the sys­tem was “proud” of the Jones­boro cam­pus’ jour­nal­ism pro­gram.

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