By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Summer Wildcat

The recent uncertainty surrounding the UA journalism department has left many people curious about the fate of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

The daily newspapers at UCLA and Oregon State University have survived the elimination of their journalism departments, with varying degrees of success.

In 1990, a decision was made to eliminate several departments, including journalism and broadcasting, at Oregon State University, said Bruce Shepard, director of undergraduate academic programs at OSU.

The decision was necessary because of a statewide initiative that limited property taxes which, by reducing state funds, also reduced the funds allocated to the university, Shepard said.

Frank Ragulsky, the OSU Director of Student Media, said the quality of the university's Daily Barometer has deteriorated significantly over the last four years.

"We can tell simply by the contests we enter," Ragulsky said. "In regional and state competitions, we always placed first or second. Now we aren't even close. We just don't have people who can do what we did before."

Ragulsky said the current staff totals about 40, about half the size of previous staffs.

"Now we will take anyone who can walk in the door," he said. "We recruit, recruit, recruit and it is still hard to find people to fill the 10 paid reporter positions."

Recruitment techniques at OSU include offering one to two upper-division credits and about $200 each term to someone who writes two stories each week, said Liz Foster, the editor in chief of the Daily Barometer.

"Since we don't have the pool of people from the journalism department, we end up catering to reporters instead of them trying to impress us," Foster said. "The quality of the paper has suffered because we haven't had people striving to do their best and get good clips."

Foster said the small staff is unable to cover many campus events and the Barometer now has to run a large amount of Associated Press stories.

In the June 3, 1994 issue of the Daily Barometer, 15 of the 29 stories were from the Associated Press.

UCLA has not had a journalism department since 1974 because it was "too vocationally oriented," said Terence Hsiao, the Director of Student Publications at UCLA. "With a journalism department, we would have the danger of the paper becoming too structured and too dry," Hsiao said.

About 100 people work in the newsroom of the UCLA Daily Bruin, many of whom are English, political science and communication majors, Hsiao said.

"It is great that we can pull in students with subject specialty and knowledge, rather than just a blanket interest in journalism," he said.

Jim Patten, head of the UA journalism department, said he feels that closing the UA department would have a negative impact on the Wildcat.

Current recommendations by a university-widecommittee suggest that "the department should be considered in the broader thematic context of information and communication," but in Patten's words, "I think the danger for Journalism is still there."

"By losing the journalism department, the Wildcat is losing its best friend," Patten said. "I don't know who would be their best friend if we were shut down."

Mark Woodhams, the Director of UA Student Publications and adviser to the Wildcat, said he feels that the newspaper would face an initial rough period, but would be able to survive and continue as usual.

"Eliminating the journalism department would have at least a short-term negative impact on the quality of the paper," Woodhams said, but added that eliminating the journalism department "would not be the end of the Wildcat."

If the department is eliminated, necessary changes would include developing a stronger training program and developing new ways to recruit staff members, Woodhams said. Staff training would include seminars on issues such as ethics and libel and ongoing news writing and copy editing workshops, he said.

"I would much rather have a journalism department, but if it is eliminated my goal will be to pick up the ball and maintain as high quality a paper as possible," Woodhams said. "I see no reason why we can't do this after the initial restructuring period." Read Next Article