Must Colorado J School 'be destroyed in order to save journalism?' asks Prof

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Will the Univ. of Colorado close its journalism school? (Credit:

The University of Colorado may end its journalism program, reported the Daily Camera, a Boulder newspaper. “Top Boulder campus leaders are recommending that CU take unprecedented steps to shut down the traditional journalism school, a move that still requires approval from President Bruce Benson and the Board of Regents.”

But, will closing the journalism school lead to a decreased standard of journalism?  At a recent public hearing, the university’s board of regents heard concerns about the potentially closed school’s impact on the state of journalism.

For example, a graduate of the school, John McLaughlin, expressed concern that the potential closure would decrease journalism quality. McLaughlin, a former employee of the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, commented:  “We fear that the changes contemplated in CU journalism teaching will only accelerate the overall decline of journalistic quality in this nation.”

Likewise, University of Colorado professor Len Ackland questioned the move.  “We now live in an often fact-free digital world. Good journalism is crucial. Must the journalism school be destroyed in order to save journalism?”

The proposal would make it so that, beginning with the fall semester in 2012, students can’t get a bachelor’s degree just in journalism.  Alternatively, students would be able to double-major in journalism or get a minor or certificate in journalism — just no journalism-only degrees.

The university’s president, Bruce Benson, “has until April 14 to make a recommendation about the future of the journalism school, according to system spokesman Ken McConnellogue. If he recommends closure, it will move to the Board of Regents.”

The journalism school’s advisory board, however, called for the school to shut down “without delay.”

An advisory board representative, Linda Shoemaker, reportedly explained:  “As difficult as it is for us to close our beloved alma mater, we believe it is the best thing you can do to support high-quality journalism education in the long term at CU-Boulder.”

A “faculty committee” suggested the university instead “create a school or college of information, communication and media technology as well as an Institute for the Global Digital Future.”  Shoemaker is quoted as saying:

“We believe that in a few years the Boulder campus will be home to two new world-class education and research entities where our graduate and, most importantly, undergraduate journalism students will get a great education. In this leap forward, from good to great, closing the existing school is the first step.”

The Colorado Society of Professional Journalists has weighed in on the debate and “recommended that CU continue to teach the basic tenets of reporting and storytelling, and make sure students have a thorough grounding in objectivity, fairness, ethics and media law.”

The chapter was founded in 1949, according to its website. SPJ Colorado secretary Dennis Huspeni is quoted as saying:

“The need has never been greater for a vibrant and vigilant press.  As journalism programs add more courses in technology and delivery methods, it’s critical that they continue to emphasize reporting skills and ethical standards.”

The Camera reported Feb 15 when the chancellor, Phil DiStefano, recommended the sole journalism bachelor’s degree be ended in favor of making it “a secondary pursuit through a double-major or minor.”

According to Colorado Daily, “Current journalism students will be able to complete their degrees. Pre-journalism majors and incoming freshmen will still be able to earn degrees, but must give CU flexibility in determining their curriculum.”

“But the immediate uncertainty surrounding journalism education at CU is causing some high-schoolers — and even ‘pre-journalism’ majors who have not yet been admitted to the school — to re-think CU,” according to Colorado Daily.  

iMediaEthics has written to SPJ Colorado’s Dennis Huspeni for comment and will update with any response.

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Must Colorado J School ‘be destroyed in order to save journalism?’ asks Prof

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