Thursday, September 24, 2009

American Spectator: Death of A&M J-school 'sensible clean-up'

In an article today about "BS degrees," or fields of study which don't prepare you for anything in particular but just mill out students who have illustrated they can jump through academic hoops, the American Spectator's Alec Mouhibian writes about the death of the journalism department at Texas A&M.

His actual facts are pretty straight, though like most people, Mouhibian does not mention that tightening requirements and expanding faculty were recommended as viable, even preferred, alternatives to closing it. It wouldn't have been a "BS degree" if they'd done so. Instead, the stigma of the department being shut down is a huge problem for the current program.

Here's Mouhibian:

A typical symptom of the (BS degree) problem rose to the surface at Texas A&M in 2003, when a budget cut prompted scrutiny of its journalism department. Over 1,000 students were enrolled in the booming program. Yet the student newspaper couldn't recruit. No more than a tenth of those students, it turned out, had any interest in journalism. The rest were rejects from business.

"It was perceived as an easy degree," learned Charles Johnson, A&M's dean of Letters and Science. "The students were not too strong."

Whiff thusly caught, Johnson swung for the spray. He closed the department, relocated the faculty, and converted the program to an interdisciplinary minor to go along with study in a prospective beat. Enrollment dropped to 50, all of them committed. The sensible clean-up job ended up dooming Mr. Johnson's candidacy last year for the provost opening at American University, home to a robust journalism program on which its journalism professors pride themselves. They thought it reflected an out-of-touch, fuddy-duddy view of journalism as mere craft -- as opposed to a "way of thinking," defined by "strategic communications" -- and therefore a direct threat to its survival as a specialized academic discipline.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Got a little Old-Army Batt staff story for ya on LinkedIn

Awww, this is cool. There's some spontaneous sharing of Battalion staff tales going on over at our LinkedIn group. Very cool of Chuck Neighbors '54 (Batt managing editor, 1953-54) to get that ball rolling. Y'all jump in.

Multimedia reporting, both 1950-style and 2001-02 style... ridealongs with a Houston cops reporter in the 1960s... I'm looking forward to reading what's up next.

Somebody want to tell for the record how that bullet-hole got in the window of the Batt editor's office?

(Just click to join -- we have to "approve" you, but if that doesn't happen fast it's just 'cause Sara and I haven't logged in recently; feel free to shoot us an e-mail)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Battalion profile on its '09-10 editor, Casanova '10

Check out the Batt's profile of Editor-in-Chief Amanda Casanova '10, a senior English major and journalism minor from Lufkin. Nice! (Here's a link to the full-size readable front page, too.)

Casanova recently wrote a little post for us about her summer internship at the Abilene Reporter-News, with links to some of her stories (including my favorite, "So will Wayna take him back?" about a gentleman who publicly posted forlorn love notices around town). The post ran in our series on Batt staffers' summer 2009 internships.

You can tell she's also got buddies at the Lufkin Daily News, because they posted nice notes to her in the comments section on the Batt story :)

Whoop for Amanda!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Slideshow of FJSA Fall Reception

Thank you again to FJSA's new treasurer, Nicholas Roznovsky, who took photos at the Fall Reception and posted this slideshow. Many familiar faces here... Bob Rogers, Ed Walraven, Kelly Brown, Scot Walker, Roznovskys pere et fils, Jerry Cooper, Roy Bragg and many others; speakers including outgoing president Rob Clark, associate dean Pamela Matthews, Bob Rogers scholarship recipient Kayla Slimp; and Hall of Honor inductee Welton Jones.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

FJSA honoree Jones: Battalion was 'priceless training'

More on the 2009 FJSA Fall Reception; photo by Nicholas Roznovsky, story by Matthew Watkins (thank you both!):

Welton Jones II was this year’s Hall of Honor inductee. His reasons for studying journalism at A&M may not be relevant to today’s students, but his career should serve as an inspiration for them.

“I majored in journalism because you could choose your science,” he said. “An English degree required chemistry. You can look it up.”

That maneuver to avoid chemistry turned out to be the first step toward a career that has spanned more than 50 years. It took him from the Houston Post to the Shreveport Times to the San Diego Union-Tribune — with brief stints at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and New York Herald Tribune along the way. Most of that time was as a theater critic and arts editor, but he did time as a cops reporter and a copy boy.

Here is how he described his journalism education:

“The journalism department encouraged the widest possible exposure to other disciplines. [The department head] encouraged the widest possible exposure to other disciplines. He designed the curriculum with a minimum number of required courses, and these were heavy on specifics: typography, photography, copy editing, head-writing. The rest were electives from elsewhere.”

He said a large part of his education also came from the Batt:

“It was priceless training. Probably the very best possible routine for me. Discipline. No girls around. Deadlines. Professional pride. Good profs. The chance to fail without disaster, which I think is a key concept in education.”

I’ve scanned his whole speech and loaded it online. It’s worth reading the entire thing. But I’ll add his closing remarks:

“Lots of things I would change in my life if I could. Majoring in journalism at Texas A&M probably isn’t one of them.”

Sunday, September 6, 2009

From the reception: What's next for A&M journalism

Heartfelt thanks to Matthew Watkins for this report!

An impressive showing by the Aggie football team and a pleasant FJSA reception made for a pretty great day Saturday.

Welton Jones II '58, the new inductee into the FJSA Hall of Honor, and Kayla Slimp, this year's recipient of the Bob Rogers scholarship, both gave inspiring speeches. More from them TK.

But first, Pam Matthews, associate dean of liberal arts, updated us on the status of the journalism program. She said she has frequent conversations with new program head Dale Rice about the future of journalism studies at A&M, and passed along some of his immediate goals:

Rice's biggest priorities for 2009-10 include reaching out...

...to high school seniors and A&M freshmen. Many of the current students at A&M only find out about the journalism program after they've been in school for a few semesters. They then have to play catch-up if they want to enroll in the program and complete all of the required classes. Rice will be speaking with top journalism students in high school and encourage them to look at A&M. He'll also try to make sure that incoming freshmen are aware of the journalism opportunities as soon as they arrive in College Station.

...to other departments to to co-sponsor journalism-related events.

....to professional news organizations in the field. That especially includes outlets willing to work with Aggie students. A great example is John Kelley at the Washington Post, who got a column by Krista Smith '09 published in his paper after working with her during the 2009 Journalists in Residence program.

Matthews also described how Rice has recognized the important role the Internet plays in the future of journalism. The JOUR 303 media writing class will add a video component to its curriculum, she said, and will publish an online magazine at the end of the semester showcasing each student's best work.

We also elected new officers. They are:

President - Douglas Pils '92
Vice President - Frank Smith '87
Secretary - Scot Walker '90
Treasurer - Nicholas Roznovsky '01

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Batt wins award from crime prevention group

Photos: Igor Kraguljac, A&M Press

At their first staff meeting of the fall semester on Thursday, Battalion staffers received the 2009 Outstanding Crime Prevention Media award from the Texas Crime Prevention Association.

University Chief of Police Elmer Schneider, Assistant Chief Bert Kretzschmar and Master Officer Kristi Hosea were there to give the plaque to the Batt's staff and its editor, Amanda Casanova. Hosea had picked up the statewide award at the association's annual meeting.

The Batt got the award for coverage of sexual assault prevention and a weekly feature on stopping crime on campus.

Batt adviser Cheri Shipman always lines up cool speakers for her staff, and this meeting was no exception:
  • College Station police PIO Lt. Rodney Sigle and Master Officer Rhonda Seaton talked about how they communicate with the A&M campus and what they're allowed to share about incidents under investigation;
  • A&M's VP of marketing and communication, Jason Cook, talked about how to improve communication between the university and Batt staff;
  • and City of Bryan communication director April Saginor, a former Batt staffer, talked about her job and about working as a reporter.