Journalism Program Moving to Bliss

By Justin Wier

The Anderson Program in Journalism at Youngstown State University will be relocating from its current home in the Department of English to the Department of Communications as of Jan. 1, 2016.

This will move the program from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences to the College of Creative Arts and Communications.

Martin Abraham, interim provost at YSU, said the decision came after intensive conversations within both programs and colleges.

“We spent a lot of time over the course of the spring semester getting input — trying to understand the advantages and disadvantages, the opportunities it would bring — and reached a consensus that this was the right thing to do on behalf of the journalism program,” Abraham said.

Adam Earnheardt, chair of the communications department, proposed the change to Abraham.

Earnheardt said they were seeing replication in terms of courses and resources required by students in the journalism program and the communications department.

“We thought that if students are asking for the same things and needing the same or similar skillsets, that combining these courses or offering access to courses under one roof would help to alleviate some of that replication,” Earnheardt said.

He also thought it would improve outcomes for students in both fields.

“The telecommunications studies students on our side were missing some skills that we thought journalism could provide. And we also thought that maybe there were some skills that [journalism] students weren’t getting that they should be leaving with that we could offer on the telecommunication studies side,” Earnheardt said.

Abraham said that while both deans and chairs approved the move, the faculty in the English department was less unanimous in their approval of the move than communications faculty and many in the English department viewed the program’s departure as a loss.

“It’s really not a loss. They’ll still have just as much opportunity to interact and partner and participate with those faculty as they [currently do],” Abraham said.

Julia Gergits, chair of the English department, expressed the same sentiment.

“I believe we’ll continue working with our colleagues even after the move to communications. We already work well with our communications colleagues on other projects,” Gergits said.

She said major decisions are seldom made without dissent.

“It’s not easy to let a program that has always been attached to your department leave,” Gergits said. “[But] this kind of evolution is normal and healthy.”

She also noted that communications and English had been in the same department until the 1960s and computer science and math were one department as recently as the 1990s.

The current move arises, as those did, from technological changes. Gergits said that most universities house mass media and journalism in the same department.

“The English department does some media work, especially in professional writing, but communications teaches broadcasting, for instance, and they’ve moved into social media management,” Gergits said.

Abraham said these aspects of the communications department make it a good fit for the journalism program.

“I’m seeing greater opportunities for interactions in the communications area, and the opportunity to address modern communications tools and their implications for journalism as a profession,” Abraham said.

Earnheardt thinks communications and journalism students will leave with a better portfolio having taken advantage of opportunities of which they were previously unaware.

Cary Wecht, associate dean in the College of Creative Arts and Communications, will be chairing the team handling the program’s transition.

“We want students to feel comfortable and we want to reduce any stress they might feel in the transition,” Wecht said. “We want to make sure it’s seamless and that there’s no harm to students. Furthermore, that they feel that this is the right thing and that this is the right home for them.”

She said students seem to be on board with the move.

“I don’t anticipate a lot of pushback because it seems so logical. When you’ve got folks that are doing video and radio news, and then you’ve got folks on the opposite side of campus doing again print, but also video and audio recording, it sure seems like they ought to be in the same program,” Wecht said. “I think there’ll be a lot of opportunity for students in both areas to not just work together but to share equipment, share ideas, share resources, so I think it’s going to be really good.”