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Indiana University

Fond memories and excitement over a new era in journalism excellence at IU

Guest post courtesy of Mark Land, IU associate vice president of public affairs and government relations and adjunct lecturer of journalism.

A part of my educational history died today.

I’m a proud graduate of the IU School of Journalism (Class of ’85), which provided the foundation for most everything I have achieved in my career and more importantly is where I met the girl of my dreams.

Some of my fondest memories as an IU student are housed in Ernie Pyle Hall where I spent many an hour as a reporter and editor of the Indiana Daily Student, which was then – like today – one of the very best student newspapers in the country and where I learned from professors who left a lasting impression on my journalistic sensibilities.

But rather than mourn the passing of the IU School of Journalism, I’m choosing to look with excitement at seeing it reincarnated as a central piece of the new IU Media School.

IU journalism faculty celebrated past successes and the beginning of the new Media School on Monday, June 30. From L-R: Cleveland Wilhoit, David Nord, Trevor Brown, Tom French and David Weaver.

IU journalism faculty celebrated past successes and the beginning of the new Media School on Monday, June 30. From L-R: Cleveland Wilhoit, David Nord, Trevor Brown, Tom French and David Weaver.

Now, in my current position I don’t exactly get paid to take positions in opposition to university decisions. In this case, though, I honestly would be excited even if I was an arm’s length observer to IU’s transition from stand-alone journalism school to a more integrated communications school that is reflective of the way people create and consume content in today’s digital society.

This may still be a minority opinion among my fellow alums, and certainly a vocal contingent has shared its concerns for the feared loss of identity or independence for the school – and even a bit of nostalgia over moving out of Ernie Pyle Hall, which to call it a quaint home would be a compliment.

But consider this: For most of its storied century of history, the journalism program at IU existed not as an independent school, but rather as a department. In fact, the program had only been elevated to school status for less than a decade when I entered it in the early 1980s.

By that time, however, the program already produced a stable of journalistic legends from Nelson Poynter to James Polk to, of course, the legendary Pyle. Many more leaders in the field, including many still active today as working journalists, academics and public relations professionals, came through the program after it was elevated to school status.

Structure has never defined excellence when it comes to journalism education at IU, but change is a natural part of life, a fact that journalists have experienced first hand all too well over the past decade.

The legendary Ernie Pyle, reporting during World War II.

The legendary Ernie Pyle, reporting during World War II.

The sweeping changes in the delivery of news and the consumption preferences of audiences brought on by rapid technological change have turned the journalistic business model on its head by completely eliminating the traditional news cycle and greatly expanding the competition for consumers’ eyes and ears. They’ve also required journalists to be writers, videographers, web producers and more – often on a single story.

What hasn’t changed, however, is the need to produce graduates that understand what makes for a good story, that possess a keen eye for detail and an ear for language, that are steadfastly commitment to accuracy and that respect the enormous responsibility that comes with being a journalist.

Nothing about the School of Journalism’s move to the Media School affects the core principles that have guided the university’s teaching of journalism for more than a century. Instead, students will now be grounded in journalistic fundamentals as part of a school that offers significantly greater flexibility and choice when it comes to a communications curriculum.

And just as journalism students will benefit from access to the best of our current telecommunications and communication and culture curriculum – not to mention entirely new course offerings – they eventually will pursue their education in state of the art facilities in Franklin Hall.

J. Irwin Miller, business visionary and the longtime legendary chairman of another great Hoosier institution, Cummins Inc., once famously said “reorganization is organization.” In evolutionary terms, I believe the concept is “adapt or die.”

Rather than cry over the end of an era, I’d rather raise a glass and toast the IU School of Journalism for a good run and offer a hearty welcome to the Media School, which – if history is a guide – will make all of us at IU very proud.

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