O n Friday, following a decision by the Regents, the journalism and mass communication school at the University of Colorado will close. The professor chosen to lead the faculty through the next two-year phase: Italian and French professor Christopher Braider, an experienced administrator who has no journalism background.
This led many in the community -- particularly CU graduates who are or were journalists -- to say, huh? In shutting down the program, the school's leadership was emphatic that its dedication to journalism education would continue. And this board wondered where that newfound desire to have a strong interdisciplinary focus went.
Until we learned last week that a steering committee comprising faculty members from journalism, computer science, music, English and more had been created.
The outside advisory board that initially recommended the shutdown will also disband when the school closes next week. We were disappointed that an outside advocacy group wouldn't have some oversight and input in the formation of the new school.
Until we heard from people close to the situation that a new outside advisory group will soon take its place.
Why the university hasn't been clearer about its path with the public is a mystery.
We are awash in information without context, willful deceptions disguised as opinions, and bombastic coverage of news and events that lacks the nuance and perspective it deserves. But quality journalism is still being done in newsroom and stations all over the country -- and thanks to the Internet and social networking, a lot of it is garnering more attention than ever before.
Many of tomorrow's journalists -- and yes, there will be journalists tomorrow -- will be seeking out the most interesting academic programs to learn their craft. By hemming and hawing during this shutdown-building phase of the old journalism school and the interdisciplinary one that will emerge, CU has done itself no favors. That's because in addition to building an exciting program with a great faculty, they will need excellent, excited students in order to succeed.
Unless they start to be better communicators how they are reshaping the program, they won't get the students or leaders they will need. We've criticized the school in the past for its vague approach; in our opinion, it continues today.
Of course, as a Boulder newspaper that employs many CU graduates and has a constant stream of its journalists-in-training as interns, it's easy for us to navel-gaze about the future of journalism education in our town and at our state university.
But journalism, and its future, is absolutely a central concern for all democracies: so integral to a free society that it is singled out in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution itself. We hope it becomes a stronger focus of our state's flagship academic institution.
-- Erika Stutzman, for
the Camera editorial board