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Building a future for journalists at Georgia State

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Published: Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Updated: Thursday, August 30, 2012 13:08

Building a future for journalists at Georgia State

Compared on paper to Georgia State’s major competition in that field in particular, the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Georgia State isn’t exactly the rival powerhouse it should be. Full story

Just a few months shy of its 100th year anniversary, last week Georgia State welcomed more freshmen to its campus than ever before in its history.

Now, stop to think about that for a moment.

Georgia State has reached a critical juncture in its development, and the decisions it makes now will have serious consequences for the overall identity of the school.

Up until this point, the university’s increasingly competitive business, law and specialty programs have driven Georgia State’s meteoric growth, which is reflected in the university’s major academic and property acquisitions for those departments.

After all, its highest paid professors come from its business school and Georgia State is investing millions in a new business and law school buildings located near Woodruff Park.

Still, for many students, Georgia State is often a considered a “backup” school—especially for certain majors like journalism.

Compared on paper to Georgia State’s major competition in that field in particular, the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Georgia State isn’t exactly the rival powerhouse it should be.

After all, Grady consistently ranks as a top-10 school nationally for undergraduate degrees in the fields of journalism, public relations, advertising and telecommunications, with some of the best faculty in the country.

And for that, it deserves the highest of praise.

So here’s the “but:” with Atlanta , home to some of the largest media organizations in the country and a burgeoning media market in its own right, Athens is just too far away from the action to truly provide students with the hands-on learning experiences they’ll need to cut it in the real world.

Compared to Atlanta, Athens just can’t compete with the marketplace of ideas and cultures that provide so much to the international flavor and reputation of the city, including Georgia State.

Indeed, behind the raw numbers behind Georgia State’s massive enrollment gains, the university has also seen a tremendous shift in the diversity of its students, graduating more African-Americans than other educational institutions in the world, not counting American historically black colleges and universities.

Georgia State is also right in the middle of things, so to speak, located just a few blocks from the international headquarters of CNN—not to mention any of the other major and minor media outlets sprinkled across Midtown and North Atlanta.

So with all this opportunity, why is Georgia State limiting what could be one of its premier undergraduate

social sciences program? As the Communications Department continues to grow, moving into the newly acquired SunTrust Tower this semester, the danger for the journalism program is that it will continue to be subsumed by the rest of the department.

After all, it’s kind of silly for a program with three similar yet totally separate concentrations (print journalism, public relations and telecommunications) to be lumped together under the same bloated department as film and drama majors.

From a purely logistical and human resources perspective, splitting up the Comm. Department into several smaller departments with greater autonomy and room for expansion just makes sense.

For starters, it would present the chance to introduce a new brand of leadership into degree programs where graduates face one of the toughest job markets – print media, for example.

Following the advice of leading academics and nonprofits like the Knight Foundation, Georgia State could partner with local media organizations to provide a training ground of sorts for its students, teaching them skills they can use in the cold, hard real world of journalism, which is evolving more and more every day.

Breaking up each department would also provide a perfect opportunity for the university to consider adding advanced degree programs in certain disciplines rather than under the generic banner of communications.

Granted, to do effectively, taking steps now to futurize the university both as a whole and on a department level will take time; no one is saying Georgia State can become the next Grady in just a few years.

However, everything leading up to this point in the university’s history, from its billion-dollar master plan to its quickly-growing FBS football program, has been the result of many careful years of planning.

Now let’s find a way to build on that experience and translate it into an innovative, robust journalism program, and I call on everyone with a stake in the game to support me in pushing for this effort.

Because now is not the time to sit back and watch as other schools take the lead in ushering in the future of journalism and mass communication.

Now is the time to begin building what could be: an innovative, well-connected Journalism Department at Georgia State that rivals the best of ‘em.

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