Merging Media: Journalism and
Electronic Media & Communications
by Rachel Shackelford
In addition to a new building, a new name, and a new degree plan, the College of Mass Communications also is merging the Department of Journalism and the Department of Electronic Media & Communications.
Todd Chambers Ph.D., the department chairperson of electronic media & communications, said this idea originated about a year ago, and has been approved for implementation on Sept. 1. The change had to be approved by the university and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Chambers said when the idea originated, faculty from both departments participated and the merger was approved.
“Everyone was on board from the get-go,” said Chambers. “There is excitement about it. I think it really does bring a lot of unique opportunities for us to brand and market ourselves in a unique way.”
Randy Reddick Ph.D., the chairperson of the Department of Journalism, said a lot of similarities exist between the two merging departments.
“It’s a complex set of things,” Reddick said. “one of which is there is an overlap between what we teach and skills involved.”
Chambers said he also agrees that journalism and electronic media & communications share a lot of common goals.
“One of the big goals is storytelling,” Chambers said. “For electronic media we want to train students to turn their stories into visual storytelling, that’s our mission. For the journalism department, they want their students to be responsible for being accurate storytellers.”
Reddick said prospective mass communications students have asked what the difference is between journalism and electronic media communications.
“We in journalism deal with news,” Reddick said, “with fact. Electronic media is not limited to fact. They can go into fiction.”
He said years ago tension existed between the two majors about how features and documentaries were to be taught. “Journalism wanted to focus more on the values of journalism,” Reddick said, “and the values of writing, and being accurate, and fair.”
Reddick said he believes in the future the merge will benefit some of the advanced courses because more faculty can teach the features and documentaries course.
“We will have coordinated efforts all under one hat,” he said, “it will be a better class, it will make more often, and will be readily available to more students.”
Chambers said he believes students will benefit from the merger and electronic media communications majors still will be electronic media communications majors, and journalism majors still will be journalism majors. The change is only administrative, he said, noting that he is excited to work with new and old faculty as well creating a new curriculum.
“Just the merger itself, new things are going to come out of it,” Chambers said, “when you get an intellectual spark and curiosity and with these forces colliding, we will think, ‘I never thought about it that way, let’s try it.’”
Chambers and Reddick agree that a lot of positive change will come with the merger but people feel uncertainty with every change.
“I don’t want a student to suffer because we aren’t moving quickly enough,” Chambers said.
Chambers said he will be the chairperson for the newly merged department, and Reddick will advance in being the administrator for the technical side in the new building because of Reddick’s technological knowledge.
Both Reddick and Chambers said they are excited for the change and the future, and mainly, the opportunities the change will have in store for the students.
“These degrees we are providing within the College of Mass Communications are not designed necessarily just for the short-term, these are designed to help the students long-term,” Chambers said. mc
Rachel Shackelford is a senior public relations major from Austin, Texas.