What’s In A Name?

As the world of journalism and communication change many of us in the journalism education field  are re-thinking what we call ourselves.  Many schools have added to their name to reflect the growing field of social media, engagement, strategic public relations, branding and advertising.

Students are joining our persuasive side of the communication house even faster than our news side.They see both jobs and a sense of excitement as the world of communication undergoes the digital transformation.

I believe we must re-imagine what it means to a be great journalism school for the 21st century. Innovation, research, experimentation and collaboration must mix with the disciplines of news and public relations and advertising to shape the future. It’s clear that new economic models are critical.  It’s also clear that students need new skills and strategies: from coding language, analytics, metrics, visual understanding, branding to consumer engagement just to name a few.

As I meet with alums on the west coast who are active in the start-ups and in jobs that might not have existed a decade ago, I find they are a bit reluctant to give up the old for the new.  They are not in the news business.   They are working for businesses and companies that are far from traditional news operations.  However, these alums like being graduates of a great journalism school even if they are not at an independent journalistic organization whose sole purpose is to inform the pubic.

They understand the power of the media, the role of a free press in a democracy, the digital revolution underway.  They have their eye on where things are going in our changing busness and they support our desire to open our doors wide enough to let business, and technology and non-profits know our students are prepared to work for them.

Our current seniors who have been lucky enough to compete for and win a spring break networking trip to San Francisco want to see the great new companies of the world while they are here : Google, Twitter, Pixar and EA.  They also want to meet our alum leaders in PR and magazines and news.

It’s an odd time.  We at the school push the envelope to prepare students to be deep thinkers and leaders. We want them to think critically, write with authority and clarity and to disrupt predictable ways of practicing communication. And we want them to respond to the economic imperative.

The students and alums want to go where no one has been, into the communications future.  But I am finding that they also don’t want to loose what attracted them to UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. That is a great tradition of success that has combined a commitment to journalism that serves democracy with a willingness to engage the public in debates that matter.  That’s not simply in news, but in the persuasive disciplines of networking, public relations, branding engagement, and advertising.

What’s in a name?  Both a great tradition and a challenging path forward.

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