Baruch’s New Undergraduate Journalism Program

Below is a facsimile of a recent email to my department. It’s oblique but I think still informative for anyone cruising this site. But first some background: My department’s journalism initiative has been faltering for years and years. The faltering started as soon as Serafina Bathrick announced her retirement and the chair who replaced her was planning to dump the J-effort. I wouldn’t go along with the plan, disrupted it and got tenure despite my obstinance. But that fueled an internecine  war that continues to this day.

Nevertheless, here is the “memo” to my department as it is reconsidering its program [the College is undergoing a Middle States accreditation review]. 

Enrollment in journalism classes are up across the country, and Baruch is commencing with a new undergraduate journalism program. I know of no other CUNY program –  that’s two-year and four-year – fretting the way that F/M frets about enrollment [I’m talking about journalism only, though I could say some things about the other disciplines]. I’ve been in San Francisco, Denver, Chicago and Tampa in the past several months, talking to pros and instructors and innovators and others serious about journalism and journalism education [I’m working on projects, not looking for a job] and I want to say this: F/M does really whacked “things.” 

I’m only touching lightly upon two. I won’t get into F/Ms dark deep secrets, which are more dark than deep as well as corrosive. That goes for the chimerical and apocryphal as well. I’m saving those for a rainy day. 

One, it’s not hard to imagine an F/M enrollment problem in light of the way F/M schedules classes (by that I mean, the enrollment “problem” seems to be an F/M creation, not something that occurred inexplicably). Two classes of advanced reporting, one feature writing (sometimes there have been two), neighborhood news, Journalism As Literature, Journalism and Society and Investigative Reporting, Magazine Writing, The Business of Magazine – all jammed into one semester? Makes no rational sense. Yes, some courses are being taught to address political matters and agendas, but that’s no excuse for the excesses.

Also, Journalism As literature and Journalism and Society should be scrapped – adios. Regarding Journalism and Society, I was the one who came up with the idea and then it was subverted and the department approved it – of course. That might sound like a whine but it’s more about this: The decision making in this place is whacked. The undergraduate investigative reporting class should be scrapped [but not the one connected to the Aronson ]. It’s been a farce almost every semester it has been taught. 

[I didn’t have the presence of mind to include the following in the original memo but should have: Why farce? At the very least, students taking this undergraduate class should have an appreciation of the importance of public records available to reporters to write their stories. Even better, it would be good if students were given assignments that introduced them to two or three or four archives of public records, such as for example, using court records. Except for the Aronson class that introduced students to the use of real estate records, none of the classes have come even close to making the class a good introductory in-depth reporting class.]

FYI: Students with j-majors* or j-concentrations* or j-focuses* who have normally been looking to move into mainstream news media positions have been moving into Internet-related niches where their writing-reporting-researching*- talent [I hate the word skills] pay off. This has been happening in Hunter as well as across the country. Charlotte Cusumano, former managing editor of the Envoy and now Hunter alumna, is an excellent example. She is not the only one. When she was working at the Envoy she was free-lancing and interning at news organizations. But she was keeping her eye on the horizon for a decent job and settled for one in media. She got it. She wasn’t the only one. Absolutely. 

I quote from an article about recent studies of J-students and programs: “… while the pool of traditional newspaper jobs may be shrinking, the broader Journalism industry is experiencing an equal – if not greater – growth spurt; not only are traditional news outlets expanding to the Internet, but there is also a whole new crop of digital media jobs … students track the downsizing of the industry … [and] see mass communication as a broader enterprise. Everyone can be a journalist.”

Across the country, more students have been choosing alternative and ethnic/immigrant news publications for their career paths. Major programs as well as major fund givers and think-tanks have been increasingly focusing on ethnic/immigrant issues and news media. I could say more here but won’t.

So, PP’s comments in his “Concentration-comments” are sophistical when they aren’t just plain dumb. On the personal side, Professor Stein’s continuing lament about MEDP 293 being a clandestine Intermediate Reporting class has been downright silly. This course has been responsible for more students winning J-awards and getting the best of the best internships than any other advanced writing class in the department. That goes for undergraduate programs at CUNY and, yep, many of those other campuses. His Neighborhood News will never match 293 in substance even if it gets decent enrollments and it won’t.

Criticizing 293 for content or performance would make sense or coming up with a better idea would make sense. Whining because it’s listed as an intermediary? It was taught, like a lot of things I use to do in this department, to compensate for serious structural shortcomings. This issue of Stein’s making is more about inflated ego. I yield to his inflatedness. I could care less if 293 is never taught. All I need is two writing-publishing classes and my students and I will be ready to cook.

Two, the chairs and instructors at the other colleges as well as some think-tank folks I’ve been in touch with consider it important to mentor students in varying degrees – mentoring is an anathema in this place. That also goes for decent academic advising. If there are doubts about my assertions, I can have students and alumni/alumna — from the crème de la crème to the very good — send the Chair and the P&C emails [with copies to the Dean, of course]. That’s: Those in the “business,” those about to be in the “business” and those considering the “business. That also true for those who choose grad schools. The savvy consider mentoring and good advising good business. But not in this place.

So: I have to believe that the administration has to have something up its sleeve or some game plan [privy only to a few, of course].

The WORD is engaged in its next big venture. I will be announcing it when registration begins for the spring semester. I am contemplating passing on the gist of this memo to students in my classes because they need to negotiate FM’s wackiness.

*An undergraduate media program with no serious research classes for students who take classes involving gathering and analyzing information. That’s whacked.


I’ve attached an email that one of my colleagues sent the department regarding this on-going fracas. It’s sophistical when it isn’t specious. concentration-comments-10-261






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