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By now you have all heard the news.
You’ve all discussed it in your classes, you’ve talked about it at lunch with your friends, you’ve cried about it to your parents: CU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication is indeed closing its doors.
Was discontinuance the prettiest of processes? No. Was it part of a necessary process needed to improve the SJMC? Yes. Was discontinuance the necessary answer at the end of the day? No.
Instead of fixing something that needed a little boost to set things straight again, CU regents voted in a 5-4 decision to outright close the SJMC. Instead of working to create a new entity in its stead (as described by Provost Moore’s Information, Communication and Technology committee), CU’s administration is simply shuffling it over to the Graduate School.
The Graduate School is not the home of the SJMC. The approximate 60 master’s candidates in journalism pale in comparison to the nearly 650 undergraduate journalism majors and over 680 pre-journalism undergraduate students. The study of journalism at CU is clearly a realm where undergrads reign supreme. Why, then, are the remnants of the journalism school shacking up with the Graduate School?
They shouldn’t be. Housing the journalism program indefinitely within the Graduate School (per the current plan) is a death sentence for the undergraduate journalist experience. Three of the regents who voted against the school’s closure wrote an open letter stating that though the school needed improvement, it should not be completely shut down: “Thus, the future of CU-Boulder’s journalism education, beyond the President’s promise that it will continue, is unclear.”
If administrators are not cautious and attentive, the undergraduate journalism experience will be lost. In housing the journalism program within the Graduate School, administrators are telling undergraduates that they don’t matter, that the practice and skills of journalism are irrelevant compared to graduate-level research.
When did the focus of a university shift away from the students?
We need to take it back.
This is not to say that everything that emerges from discontinuance is toxic. Yes, something needed to change and journalism degrees should have had a double-degree in something else anyway, as suggested in the Journalism Plus plan. That’s the best part about a journalist: They’re well-rounded.
It makes sense that journalists should have a degree in journalism and some other study. Journalism gives you the skills; the other degree gives you the knowledge.
However, from this point forward, it will be up to the undergraduates to define your education yourself.
Undergraduates, it’s time to take your education into your own hands if you hope to survive in the world of journalism. Here are some suggestions to help you achieve the education you need:
1. Join the student news publication, the CU Independent. There is no better experience you can get than reporting, interviewing, writing, editing and creating multimedia for web publishing. I guarantee you if you say you’re a journalism student who has never worked for the student news publication, you will have a hard time finding employment.
2. Start a blog. Shoot videos, take photos and write, write, write. If you get stuck or bored of writing, write some more.
3. Build a resume website to showcase your work. The ability to do some basic web design will go far.
4. Get an internship. It doesn’t matter if it’s unpaid. If you find enough internships that are unpaid, it will translate into paid work further down the line. Don’t sit in your classes and wait for them to land you a job.
5. Be well-rounded. If you’re a news-editorial major, shoot some video. If you’re a broadcast production major, learn how to use social media. It’s all interrelated at the end of the day.
A CU official told me in the dining hall this week that the value of CU’s journalism degree won’t decline. No employer is going to hire or fire you based on whether or not you went to an accredited school. I agree with him, wholeheartedly. It is your experiences, not the classes you took, that will define you in this new realm of journalism.
It is up to you to take back your journalism education and make it your own in a world of discontinuance.
You want to be a journalist? Go do it. It’s up to you now.
Contact CU Independent Fall 2010 Editor-in-chief Kate Spencer at Katherine.email@example.com.