Merge proposal sparks discussion

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Although the media arts department was not involved in creating the proposal to establish a new school of journalism and broadcast media, some faculty and students are receptive of the idea.

On Nov. 23, the journalism department asked President Manuel Pacheco to create a new college including studies in mass communication, broadcast production, advertising, public relations and media law.

The proposal came in response to Provost Paul Sypherd's recent recommendation to eliminate the department.

Before making his final recommendation, Sypherd had considered combining journalism, media arts and library science into an "information superhighway" department, rather than eliminate the department entirely. However, his final recommendation suggested eliminating the department with the intention of forming the information department "sometime in the future." Sypherd was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Michael Gillette, media arts department head, said he had not heard about the journalism department's proposal and would need more information before making a decision whether or not to support the proposal.

He said the media arts department works with journalism in teaching electronic journalism, partly through reporting classes. However, he said he has not considered a more in-depth partnership.

Phil Buckner, a media arts adjunct professor, said he was also surprised by the proposal, and said he did not know whether the proposal would benefit the department.

He said he is unsure how many of the 200 production students would be interested in studying news. Student production projects are film- or video-related, but in the past students have had the option of creating news projects, he said.

Wes Marshall, a media arts professor, said he supports an effort to combine journalism and media arts in teaching electronic journalism skills needed for television news.

"I think it would be a beneficial thing to explore pulling the two units together," he said.

He said the two departments have been collaborating "off and on for several years" to form a joint degree in broadcast journalism, but the efforts were not successful.

Marshall, who originally earned a degree in print journalism and worked in television news, said he is "interested in the applied side of the field."

"There are a huge number of jobs within electronic journalism," he said. "I don't think print news is going to disappear anytime in the near future, but you have to take into account that society gets its news and information in a variety of different ways."

There are numerous universities across the country that successfully combine programs in ways similar to the proposal, he said.

Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication incorporates journalism, broadcasting, public relations and photo journalism. Northern Arizona University also includes photography, advertising, broadcast, speech and public relations in their College of Creative and Communication arts.

Frederich Leigh, the deputy director of the Walter Cronkite School, said the department was once part of the College of Arts and Sciences, but had been part of ASU's College of Public Programs since 1970. The other departments under the college are also "professional" programs like tourism, justice studies and public affairs.

"There have been problems for professional units under liberal arts," he said. He said the formation of the new college was designed to "put programs together that seemed to belong together."

A similar school could be created here, using ASU and others with "more independent" media schools as models, Leigh said.

Gabe Hoyos, a media arts graduate student, said he thinks the proposal would make media arts more well-rounded.

"It would be a really huge department, but it would be great," he said. "It would bring it all together and make it seem like media arts rather than just film or television."

Rebecca Butler, a journalism senior, said she is interested in a career in media arts and thinks combining the journalism and media arts departments would teach people like her more about the profession. As it is, the journalism department is too focused on print journalism and the combined effort would allow more emphasis on broadcast, she said.

She also said she supports the idea rather than continuing to downsize and eliminate the media arts and journalism departments. Recently, the media arts department began downsizing from 700 to 350 students.

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