UCollege journalism department updates with new, integrated communications major

| News Editor

The University College journalism department is in talks to develop a new program that would combine the ever-growing presence of digital media communications with the art of investigative storytelling.

The prospective shift comes only two years after the school decided to split its “Communications and Journalism” major into two separate degrees—one focused on organizational communications such as marketing, advertising and public relations and the other targeting those interested in print and broadcast journalism and social media.

Administrators are now reevaluating the split, acknowledging that part of their reasoning is based upon the fact that the rapidly changing journalism field is increasingly incorporating digital and social media.

Although these discussions are still in preliminary stages, Steven Ehrlich, interim dean of the University College in Arts & Sciences, said that integrating the two tracks would produce some sort of media communications program. Most importantly, though, is keeping up to date with these constantly evolving and dynamic fields.

“What we’re trying to do is to have discussions so that what we do mirrors the changing industry priorities; keep the courses updated, keep the programs updated and the goals updated,” Ehrlich said. “But things change so quickly.”

Repps Hudson, who’s been the journalism coordinator at University College for 25 years, cited the department’s upcoming expansion of video production courses and equipment as one way they plan on adapting.

“We want to do more with video. We want to do more with things that people are using today, which is their smartphones. For years we’ve offered a TV journalism class without a studio—if we can offer a TV journalism class with the studio, that’s what we ought to be doing,” Hudson said.

Ehrlich agreed that hands-on studio work would aid in making some of the courses offered more meaningful. The studio is as of now planned to be available in fall 2016.

“We’re constantly working towards how to make and package these courses to make them more visible,” Ehrlich said. “We also hope in the near future to have access to the studio. If we could at least do a little bit more of that through some hands on work at the studio that would be great.”

In the meantime, students looking to learn about journalism have a variety of options within the University College; courses on copy editing, sports writing, video production, photojournalism and more are currently offered and taught by industry professionals.

“People who really do this for a living and really know what they’re doing are teaching our classes,” Hudson said.

While these classes may be less visible to day students not enrolled in University College, Repps implored students interested in sharpening their political awareness and storytelling skills to look a little deeper into what University College has to offer.

“People sometimes criticize or complain that Wash. U. doesn’t have a journalism department,” Hudson said. “But there is—it’s just that it’s hidden in University College and unless students are very resourceful they may not find it.”

Hudson stressed that although the internet provides a medium for everyone to share their opinions, distinct and developed journalism skills are necessary for reporters to make their presence known.

“I think journalism today seems so available to everyone because of the internet. Everyone can do it, but they can’t do it really well,” Hudson said. “The truth is, there’s so many voices out there, if you want to stand out you’ve got to be a good critical thinker, you have to express yourself, you’ve got to be quick, you have to meet deadlines—all that is part of it.”

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