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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas State University System President Charles Welch (third from right) said at Friday’s board of trustees meeting that the system was “proud” of the Jonesboro campus’ journalism program. - Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun

A newly organized school of journalism at Arkansas State University's Jonesboro campus will highlight what officials say has long been a "marquee program" for the school.

At a meeting Friday, the university's board of trustees voted to formally create the School of Media and Journalism within the school's College of Liberal Arts and Communication. About 330 students will be under the school, a spokesman said.

"We wanted to emphasize that we believe in that program, and make it plain that we do support journalism," says Carl Cates, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Communication. "While there've been changes [in the news industry], the need for clear and relevant information has never been greater."

Although a journalism program had "remained intact" within the college's media department, a 2014-2015 reorganization had chipped away at its identity, Arkansas State University System President Charles Welch said. He mentioned that recent news reports had inaccurately characterized the program as having been dissolved.

"We never got rid of or abandoned our journalism programs. We never will," he said. "We're proud of this program."

But meeting with alumni, "this concern [about the status of the journalism program] bubbled up regularly," said ASU-Jonesboro Chancellor Kelly Damphousse. Friday's vote to create the school is expected to elevate the program's profile, while engendering a stronger sense of student identity and pride.

Enrollment at both undergraduate and graduate journalism schools has been on the decline nationally, according to a report from the nonprofit Knight Foundation.

Students may be responding to a dearth of jobs, especially in print media. A July Pew Research Center report found that there were almost 25 percent fewer jobs available in U.S. newsrooms in 2017 as compared with 2008.

Although he agreed that journalism is in a "tough phase," Damphousse said officials at the Jonesboro campus want to continue the university's legacy of turning out reporters, broadcasters and other news professionals, many of whom have gone on to hold influential positions in Arkansas media.

Cates said journalism retains its importance in informing the public.

"I happen to think journalism ... is one of the basic keys to our safety and welfare as citizens," he said. "This country does not exist, and the dialogue we have does not exist, if we do not have well-trained journalists bringing us good information. ... It's a national imperative."

The new school also clarifies some structural and reporting issues that were created during the previous reorganization, he said. Assuming approval from the relevant departments, a national search will take place for the school's director, who will report to Cates.

Existing funds will be reallocated to organize the school, according to an an agenda from the ASU board of trustees meeting.

In recent years, journalism and media faculty at ASU have been expanding their curriculum to incorporate courses in newer disciplines such as multimedia production and social media management, though the emphasis is still in news and editorial, says Jeff Hankins, ASU System vice president of strategic communications and economic development.

The University of Arkansas System -- which includes the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville -- also has a journalism program, but Damphousse says the new school is not a direct attempt to compete with that program, beyond general and ongoing efforts to vie for students.

"We're working very hard to recruit students to come to Jonesboro," he said.

This is the third school created within a college at the campus. The other two are the School of Nursing within the College of Nursing and Health Professions and the School of Teacher Education and Leadership within the College of Education and Behavioral Science.

Osabuohien Amienyi, chairman of the media department at ASU-Jonesboro, cheered Friday's vote, which he says will make an already vibrant program more visible and strengthen its public-facing identity.

Student newspaper The Herald, the Delta Digital News Service and ASU-TV will be housed within the new school, Amienyi said.

He thinks students will support the change, and that it could bode well for the journalism program's future.

"Our students are still winning journalism awards across the state, across the region, across the nation," he said. "Now that we have a dedicated unit, perhaps resources will begin to flow."

Metro on 12/08/2018

Print Headline: Arkansas State gets new journalism school; officials praise trustees’ vote to elevate program

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