By Faraz T. Toor
Published: October 14, 2014
Professor Paul Moses likens the Brooklyn College journalism program to his old car: archaic, but still running.
One day, Moses’ wife told him it was time to upgrade. He protested and said, “It still runs. It’s fine.”
However, the Moses family ended up getting a new a car, and he is glad they did.
Unlike Moses’s ride, on the other hand, it is unclear if the journalism program will get an upgrade in the foreseeable future.
The Director of the Brooklyn College Journalism Program, Anthony Mancini, and a source who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, say that Dean Richard Greenwald nixed a potential merger between the journalism program and the broadcast journalism program for the foreseeable future. Instead, Greenwald reportedly wants the two programs to have a close relationship, and outside evaluators will assess the journalism program in March.
The merger, which the journalism program and Moses, a professor in the program, proposed, aimed to create a single journalism degree that would have included aspects of print and electronic journalism. The journalism program suggested that Brooklyn College could do this by either by putting both programs within the English or television and radio departments, or by creating a department of journalism.
Currently, the two programs are separate majors, degrees, and are in different departments. The journalism program is in the English department and offers a Bachelor’s of Arts, while the broadcast journalism program is in the TV and radio department and offers a Bachelor’s of Science degree.
A self-study of the journalism program conducted last semester states that they believe the best option would be to move the journalism program into the TV and radio department. They say the broadcast journalism program cannot be “easily extracted” from the TV and radio department because it shares its television and radio studios and its equipment. The study also argues that because the TV and radio department has many faculty members from outside broadcast journalism who have expertise in media, they could enrich the curriculum for journalism students.
However, the push for the new curriculum recently hit a major roadblock.
“We instituted the idea ourselves, thinking it made no sense for us to have two journalism programs in one college, given that the journalism climate nowadays calls for nothing but conversion—meaning there’s no longer the traditional split between print journalism and electronic journalism,” Mancini said. “We were asked to write a self-study last term by Professor Matthew Moore, who was the Interim Dean of the School of Humanities [and Social Sciences]. And we produced the self-study, made the case for us to merge, to leave the English Department. But over the summer we got a new dean [Greenwald], who didn’t like the idea as much as we did, and now he wants to follow another path—a middle path—and do some kind of a cross disciplinary matter or approach with the TV and radio people.”
According to Mancini, Greenwald was less than enthusiastic about the proposal, and preferred the two journalism programs having a closer relationship instead. “When I spoke to him, he wasn’t unreasonable about it, but he also expressed some reservations about it because he thought there might be a middle way, and that’s what he’s trying to work out now, I assume,” Mancini said.
The journalism program falls under the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Greenwald, as Mancini mentioned, succeeded Moore as the Dean of the School. He declined to comment on a potential merger.
Maria Ann Conelli, the Dean of the School of Visual, Media, and Performing Arts, the school under which the broadcast journalism program falls, could not be reached for comment.
The proposal for a merger of the two journalism programs is far from a novel one. As early as the 1980s, according to Mancini, who taught in the journalism program at the time, the Brooklyn College administration moved the journalism program to Whitehead Hall to be closer to the TV and radio department.
“And then TV and radio department went out for some accreditation and saw our program as nuts and bolts, and cut us loose,” Mancini recalled.
The journalism program later moved to 132 New Ingersoll Hall so that they could teach in a multimedia lab where most of their classes were, but plans for a merger were still almost non-existent.
In 2012, however, the broadcast journalism program, whose previous director had been absent on medical leave for several years, hired John Anderson as an assistant professor and new director. Moses said the initiative for a merger gained steam with Anderson’s hiring.
The proposed merger did not have universal appeal in the journalism program. Assistant Professor Jessica Siegel, who wrote a response to the self-study and called for further evaluation of the program, was split about the future of the journalism program. She says the program should either rework its curriculum and stay in the English Department, or join the TV and radio department; to her, there seems to be no definite solution at this time.
“Journalism is writing,” she said. “At the same time, I think they are doing the same things as [we are] in TV and radio.”
Mancini said that he thinks the main opposition of the proposed merger is coming from Ellen Tremper, English Department Professor and Chairperson, because she “didn’t want to lose that many students from the English Department.” Tremper declined to comment at this time.
According to Moses and the self-study, a curriculum for a single journalism degree would have required students to learn a core set of skills in “writing, reporting, and technology to tell stories in a variety of platforms,” including print, radio, and television. Then students would have taken additional courses in the areas that most appeal to them.
“There shouldn’t be any distinctions between print, online, and broadcast journalism,” Moses said.
Mancini argued that a journalism program in an English department “makes no sense in the 21st century.”
“You either have a journalism department with broadcast journalism in one place, print in one place, or have a conversion of the two, which we were trying to do,” Mancini said.
The journalism program requires its students to take Introduction to Multimedia Journalism, a course that teaches basic multimedia production techniques; but the self-study argues that the journalism program’s students are not well versed in advanced techniques, such as lighting and sound, or in using broadcast equipment.
The TV and radio department offers such courses that teach these techniques and requires students to use broadcast equipment. However, students need pre-requisites to get into these classes, which are usually capped at small enrollment numbers, and most of the students in these classes are broadcast journalism and TV and radio majors who have priority enrollment over non-television and radio department majors.
Most of the journalism program’s professors also don’t have experience producing television or radio projects, according to Moses. Mancini and Moses want to push students to practice more with these media, but they need professors who can teach these courses, like broadcast journalism’s faculty.
“For our students to remain competitive, we need to create a single Brooklyn College journalism degree that integrates the values of print and electronic journalism, and anticipates future developments in the convergent newsroom,” the self-study says.
A number of colleges and universities have made the transition to teach convergent journalism, including the University of Maryland, SUNY Stony Brook, the University of Texas, and Emerson College. Baruch College a few years ago did what the Brooklyn College journalism program wanted to do: it removed its journalism program from its English department.
“It has now become standard practice in the field to offer all journalism courses within one department or program, with a set of required courses that develop a core competency in writing (often with a single beginning course for print/online and broadcast), reporting, journalism technology, and journalistic judgment, including ethics and media law. Students are then free to specialize in the platform of their choice,” the self-study states.
Anderson declined to comment for this story, only saying that the broadcast journalism program “desperately need[s] more faculty.” The program, in which more than 100 broadcast journalism majors are enrolled, currently only has one other full-time professor besides Anderson.
Both Mancini and Moses say any relationship or merger, when it was discussed, would have been a mutually beneficial relationship for the two programs.
“This is not just to benefit journalism majors to give them new technology,” Moses said. “It’s good for broadcast journalism majors as well.”
“We would bring something to them, and they would bring something to us,” Mancini said.
Specifically, they theorized that while the broadcast journalism program would have shared their television and radio resources so that journalism students could learn broadcast production techniques, the journalism program would offer their expertise in writing and reporting and their professors for broadcast journalism students.
That’s precisely what some of those students want.
“Anybody in the field all [has] to have some level of writing skills,” Carlos Montanez, a senior broadcast journalism major, said. “The editor can’t do everything.”
Montanez, who has interned and worked at numerous radio and television stations, said that even in the broadcast journalism industry, producers—and even camera operators—must know how to write, because anyone in a newsroom might have to write something quickly.
“If I go to the Daily News website, you’re gonna see video [sic],” Montanez said. “But always remember: the foundation is writing. That’s print… Writing is the key, and you’ll always have to be a good writer if you’re in journalism.”
When asked what he wanted from the journalism program, Javier Gutierrez, a junior broadcast journalism, said he wanted more of a base in written journalism.
“Maybe more of a focus on print itself: feature pieces, written pieces—stuff you don’t get on the broadcast journalism side as much,” Gutierrez said. “You being good in print, radio, and TV only helps your career.”
Some journalism majors argue the same thing.
“A lot of people should have a filming experience, an editing experience,” Sindy Nanclares, a senior journalism major, said. Nanclares was a student of the Summer Broadcast News Institute (SBNI), the nine-credit capstone broadcast journalism course in which students had to produce their own half-hour television newscasts. “I have the writing, I have the reporting, but I also wanted to learn multimedia… I feel you’re more marketable and you’re ahead.”
“We should have learned to shoot, edit. You don’t need it, but it helps,” said Rebeca Ibarra, 26, a reporting intern at The Independent. Ibarra, who also took SBNI, recently completed the Brooklyn College journalism degree and is applying for graduation. “I wanted to tell the stories in more ways.”
Moses is confident in journalism gradates like Ibarra, but said more can be done for current students.
“They’re getting the skills they need, but I think it can be better,” Moses said about journalism students. “I think we need to move ahead in the times.”
For the moment, however, any potential cross disciplinary method will have to wait another few months: three outside evaluators were scheduled to meet with the journalism program this month to assess the program, but Greenwald rescheduled the meeting for March while the journalism program gathers other documents and “revises the curriculum to reflect the new realities in the world of journalism,” according to Mancini.
“If I had to guess, any changes won’t happen until the year after that,” Mancini evaluated, adding that “there’s a lot of uncertainty as to where we go from here.”
Many journalism and broadcast journalism students are certain that a closer relationship between the two programs would help them and their fellow students, but they would have liked to see a merger and still hold out hope for it.
“If they get closer, I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Montanez explained. “If you were to get closer, eventually I think they’re gonna [sic] merge. I can’t see that they won’t merge, because both of them are so important, so similar, in this day and age.”
“Why limit the departments to only print or TV and radio?” Gutierrez said. “There’s many schools that are competitive, and I think it would help Brooklyn College.”