Journalism supporters speak out at public forum

By Amanda Hunt

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Scarlet "J"s filled the Harvill Building auditorium when community members came out to show their support for the Department of Journalism Friday night.

More than 200 community members, students, faculty and professionals from outside of Tucson spoke to a faculty senate special committee in support of saving the department. The crowd wore stickers with a red letter "J" on them to signify the department's uneasy status.

It was the second of three forums designed to gather facts for the Journalism Review Committee. The student forum took place last Thursday and the faculty forum will take place Wednesday.

The committee is a compilation of students, staff and faculty including three representatives from the journalism department. The committee will submit a report simultaneously to University of Arizona President Manuel T. Pacheco and the UA Faculty Senate in April.

Last month, Pacheco seconded Provost Paul Sypherd's recommendation to eliminate the department by 1998. Journalism, physical education and statistics are the three programs proposed for elimination. The Arizona Board of Regents will make the final decision on the future of the programs in question.

Representatives from state and local papers, television stations and public relations departments expressed concern about the effect the possible elimination of the department would have on their pool of applicants and the community.

In a written statement about his recommendation, Pacheco states, "I cannot conceive that the university is well served by an undergraduate program that does a good job of teaching basics but is insufficient beyond that mark." Pacheco added, "Nor do I believe that an institution of our caliber can readily accept a situation in which only one of eight ranked faculty members can be commended for scholarly research and writing of a caliber appropriate to a Research I institution."

Attorney Minette Burges, a graduate of the department, gave each member of the committee an outline of "misinformation," refuting the reasons for the proposed dismissal of the department. In the outline, she states that more than 50 percent of department graduates obtain journalism-related employment after graduation, as opposed to the Social and Behavioral Sciences Strategic Budget and Planning Committee's figure of 8 percent.

Burges also refuted other claims by the committee that the department was criticized by its national accreditation team, journalism students have below-average grade point averages and elimination of the department will save money.

Jay Gonzales, department graduate and manager of the public affairs department at Tucson Electric Power, discussed the importance of the department's minority program. Gonzales said closing the department "would be a great deterrent" to minorities in a community where "commerce is growing and the need for Hispanic journalists is growing and growing and growing."

Pam Johnson, managing editor of the Arizona Republic and John D'Anna, associate editor, both said the demand for UA graduates is high. Johnson said "it would be hard to imagine" the future of the

Republic's newsroom without the "stream" of UA journalism department graduates.

D'Anna said UA graduates "come far better prepared to walk into a newsroom" compared to those of other state universities.

Patti Weiss, a news anchor with KOLD in Tucson, agreed that the journalism department provides more qualified graduates than other departments.

She also expressed the need for "good, well-educated minority reporters" that the department provides. "We want them; we need them; we cannot afford to lose this resource," she said.

Visiting scholar Dick Bakkerud discussed the department's emphasis in technology and research. He teaches a "Direction in News Technology" class which was announced at the start of the semester and since has filled two sections. Bakkerud said that response demonstrates a "remarkable" interest in technology, aligned with the goals of a Research I institution.

Director of Student Publications Mark Woodhams said the top five Research I institutions have a journalism department.

Tom Beal, a columnist with the Arizona Daily Star, said that research is an important part of an institution as is publication "we do it daily." He admitted that the department is not perfect, but "there are remedies that will strengthen it."

Beal said he considers journalism an important part of society.

"Imagine a world without journalists," he said. "Imagine a library with no classification system."

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