Saturday, April 7, 2007

Bringing back a major and/or department

(I offer a brief recap, plus a few of my own conclusions, but I am far from the most knowledgeable person about these matters. Corrections, updates, more info all welcome.)

Amid state funding cuts and after a 2001 review that documented an influx of business students overfilling JOUR classes, the Journalism Department was eliminated and the JOUR major halted in 2004 (some background from the Eagle here). There is now a Journalism Education Program within the College of Liberal Arts, which offers a JOUR minor. (For other journalism at A&M, see the end of this post.)

Though Dr. Gates oversaw the department's closure, he was interested in bringing the major back (more from the Eagle here), but, you know, that other job thing came up. The dean of liberal arts, Charles Johnson, says in the same '06 story that the minor is serving journalism students at A&M well and they will look at bringing back a major "when there is demand and sufficient support for it."

A&M's interim president is Eddie Davis, and resurrecting a department may not be something for an interim president to do. It could likely take a couple of years to realize, as well, even after a decision was made. In any case, it seems there's some building to do first, which is what the folks in FJSA and the Journalism Education Program are working on.

So: "Demand" means "students who want to take journalism classes." Several thoughts occur to me here:
  • Loren Steffy voices concern in the '06 article that people won't know we're teaching journalism at A&M anymore (I paraphrase).
  • Natalie Holladay, in her work for the J-program, talks to high school journalism educators; at a convention last fall, she says, they "were very excited to see A&M represented, as they have many students who desperately want to be Aggies, but didn't see an avenue to continue journalism."
  • Dr. Walraven told me that he regularly hears from his students comments along the lines of "I wanted to go to a major journalism school, but I just had to be an Aggie."
This says to me: There's demand out there, coming down the pipeline. High school students who want to be Aggie journalists need to know there's still a program, and the program needs to keep serving them well. I'll keep working on ideas and ways that former students can help with this. Ideas welcome!

Next: I'm pretty sure "support" means "money," but it can also mean lively interaction with and interest from former students. The Journalist-in-Residence program, for one, is a good example of non-monetary support from former students, as are the activities of the FJSA. One kind of financial support is probably the scholarships offered to A&M students within the JOUR minor. I know FJSA endowed at least one of these -- and I didn't know that George Carlin endowed another one!

Another necessary component to bringing back a major/department appears to be curriculum changes, but I know little about this as yet.

Topics I hope to address in future (and please send me anything you know, or opinions):
  • How money might help, how much money, and what has already been done in this area?
  • Whether a new graduate trying to get hired in journalism needs to have a journalism degree.
  • Journalism continuing in other venues at A&M: of course, Student Media (the Batt, etc.), but also the Ag Journalism major, as Dr. Starr vibrantly points out, and multimedia/visual journalism, which is thriving all on its own. Technical editing/science journalism?
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Anonymous said...

I'm glad Dr. Starr points out that a strong Agricultural Journalism program is alive and well at A&M...and demonstrates what is possible when you have the support of the university....Regarding all this, I recently came across two quotes: one from World War II hero Audie Murphy who said a newspaper (along with kids laughing and political rallies)is one of the true meanings of America. The other was from former A&M president Robert Gates (now Secy. Defense) while addressing graduates of the Naval Academy. He referred to "two pillars of our freedom under the Constitution -- the Congress and the press." Which begs the question......