Program overhaul brings journalism


Courtesy Photo

Chris Martin served as the communication studies department head throughout the electronic media program transition to digital media.

CLINTON OLSASKY, Executive Editor | [email protected]

UNI will now join the University of Iowa and Iowa State University as the third regent university in the state to include a journalism major. Effective this fall semester, UNI’s department of communication studies will be offering a digital journalism emphasis within their newly dubbed digital media program.

The program, which was formally known as electronic media, will officially undergo this new name change at the next Iowa Board of Regents (BOR) meeting, according to Chris Martin, a communication studies professor. The Iowa BOR website states their next meeting will take place here at UNI on Oct. 19-20.

Digital journalism will join digital media leadership and digital media production, the two emphases that comprised the former electronic media major. Martin said this will be the first time UNI has offered a journalism emphasis since radio and TV broadcasting was replaced by electronic media in the early 1990s.

“Ironically, there was a production track, there was a management track and there was a broadcast journalism track,” Martin said. “When we switched to electronic media, we lost all those emphases. And now, here we are, 25 years later, and we actually have three emphases back again.”

According to Martin, UNI admissions has provided anecdotal data in recent years that states journalism was the most requested major UNI didn’t offer.

“I think it’s one of the best parts of the changes that we’re making because we had a lot of students interested in journalism,” said Paul Siddens, communication studies department head. “With social media, with the web, there’s a lot of different ways that journalism works today. And so to give our students that opportunity to learn, […] I just think it’s a real advantage for us and for our students.”

According to Martin, the curricular process takes at least two years, which is about how long it took for the former electronic media program to undergo these changes. Martin had served as communication studies department head for about six years before this fall semester.

Paul Torre, a communication studies professor who specializes in media leadership, explained the reasoning behind bringing journalism into the program at the start of this process.

“It was about two years ago,” Torre said. “The faculty, the professors in these areas, got together, and part of the goal was to create a journalism emphasis – it was just a minor before. And in order to make that happen, it couldn’t really be a freestanding area within the department of communication studies. It had to be part of a group.”

Torre also explained the overall name change from electronic media to digital media.

“Digital is a very broad kind of term. We interpret it very broadly to mean every way in which the media is now digitally transmitted and captured,” Torre said. “That was a lot of the emphasis – kind of updating the name to reflect the new reality that’s been around for a while.

“But it’s just a more current title for the program. And so what we did then was basically recognizing a lot of the changes that the program had already been undergoing as far as focusing not just on traditional media, but also creating content for the web.”

Tristan Fisher, junior digital media production and performance major, praised the program’s new name change because of both its succinctness and inclusiveness.

“It’s also good because it’s suitably all-encompassing and kind of broad like digital media, in general, is,” Fisher said. “Digital media encompasses video, audio, performance, drama, social media – it encompasses so much now, and it’s a good name for it.”

All three emphases under the digital media program will have one internship requirement in order for students to graduate. While this is a first for the new journalism emphasis, Martin said the original two emphases had already required an internship.

“Electronic media has always had an internship requirement as well, and that’s never been a problem,” Martin said. “We’ve had a lot of students be incredibly successful over the years in electronic media and also in all areas, actually – in production, in leadership. We’ve had some students in the former minor in journalism actually do internships as well.”

Siddens said he supports the internship requirement for a number of reasons.

“I always advise people to do internships even [if] it’s not required because, first of all, it’s a networking opportunity,” Siddens said. “Second of all, it gets you professional experience. And then third, […] you get to see how the wheels turn in your particular area that you’re interested in.”

Johnathan Carpenter, junior digital media production and performance major, agreed that the internship requirement, while challenging, is necessary for succeeding in the industry.

“I think it’s a little stressful having a required internship,” Carpenter said. “But I think it is also very important that we do get the field experience […] Getting out and meeting people and trying out internships at different work places – that’s how you get a feel for how things are and figure out where you want to work.”