Mission & Philosophy
The Department of Journalism and Digital Communication strives for teaching excellence, supports faculty and student research, encourages community and professional service, and promotes understanding and inclusion across culture, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability and other conditions of difference. We work untiringly to graduate accomplished students who make valuable contributions to their chosen fields and engage actively in their communities. Our overall values reflect those of the University in that we endeavor to provide our students with an education rich in:
- practical experience and theory
- collaboration with one another and the campus community
- respect for others and their views
- innovative, creative expression and unfettered pursuit of truth
- deliberative dialogue and shared governance
- ethical behavior imbued with honesty, integrity, and openness
- civic awareness and service
Our specific mission is to:
- Educate journalists who can report, edit, present and interpret the news with skill, responsibility and social consciousness in an evolving media world
- Engage in research, service, creative endeavors and professional activities that contribute to the academy, the community and the profession
- Detect and explore emerging issues in journalism, mass media and society
- Question journalism’s traditional methods and values and test alternatives
- Promote cultural understanding and broaden perspectives
- Develop abilities and expand imaginations of students and faculty
- Affirm the belief that journalism, at its best, encourages and protects the democratic process
Our additional mission for M.A. students is to:
- Prepare them for leadership in their professional or academic callings
- Help them explore and demonstrate understanding of historical, theoretical, legal, ethical and professional context for journalism and other media work
OUR PHILOSOPHY OF NEWS
Our philosophy of news defines our approaches to the teaching, study and practice of journalism.
We believe journalism is a craft that strives to reach the truth as best as it can be known. We teach our students to report the news as accurately, fairly and ethically as possible, recognizing that subjectivity and bias can be understood and accounted for but not eradicated from the news gathering and reporting processes As journalists witness events, interview and study documents, they should know about the history, culture and relationships among diverse people, organizations and government; they should know, as well, the physical, social, personal and ideological contexts in which events take place. Finally, they should know about the influences, effects and ramifications of what they do — about what it means to say something is “true” and “objective.”
We focus on the community because we believe the needs and desires of the people should be communicated upward to government and public officials, not conveyed the other way around. We agree with the Hutchins Commission when it recommended that the voices of citizens should be heard and that journalists are obligated to provide the forum for exchange of ideas and concerns. Therefore, we encourage our students to seek out stories where people live, work, pray and relax. They find stories on buses, at parks and playgrounds, church halls and small businesses — stories that often raise issues every reporter can find at city hall or the courthouse, such as crime prevention, disbursement of tax money, economic development and race relations. But the perspectives are different. Even when their views are not that different from official viewpoints, the words of citizens are genuine, unrehearsed and natural.
Our “people-first” journalism does not ignore conventional news sources and events, including elections, government meetings and legislative action. But it always has citizens’ interests in mind. That approach, of course, means that journalists must spend at least as much time among citizens and neighborhoods as they do with government officials and at public institutions. We further believe that not all news is bad. Journalists should report on what works as well as what is broken, what is healthy in society as well as what is ill.
We recognize the roles played by curators and those who comment on the news created by others, but we believe that democracy depends not only on free expression but also on original, insightful and contested news created through skilled, knowledgeable and open-minded journalists interacting with all kinds of people.
We acknowledge the changing news environment, the reorganization of news organizations and the valuable contributions of freelancers, entrepreneurs and experts . We acknowledge, too, the increasing identification of news with political ideologies, the debate over the definition and relevance of “objectivity” and how massive amount of available information and philosophical arguments have confused what we think of as “true.” We consider these conflicting, contentious conditions of the news as issues good journalists must face, not as issues that make good journalists less relevant.
Finally, we accept the place of new technology and shifting definitions of news, but we hold true to one unwavering tradition: We believe wholeheartedly that free people and a free press require each other.
OUR PHILOSOPHY OF JOURNALISM EDUCATION
We believe journalism education should do more than help students keep up with prevailing practices in the field and gain the credentials to do competent reporting, editing, photography, graphics and other journalistic assignments. We believe undergraduate and graduate education should question traditional methods and values and explore alternatives, especially in an environment undergoing rapid change in both the way news is disseminated and the nature of news itself.
Learning basic skills helps start and enhance our students’ professional careers in journalism and other fields that value the ability to communicate. But beyond the basics, we focus on conceptual areas of journalism and media and discuss history, theory, law and ethics to develop deeper understanding and critical reflection in ways that benefit our students in whatever they do.
We encourage our students with journalism backgrounds to challenge themselves by going outside their past work experiences to consider practices and concepts from wholly different perspectives. Students with little or no journalism experience learn not only from the texts and instructors but also from the journalists in their classes.
Our mix of students allows us to explore journalism from various orientations and contexts. The mixing and sometimes clashing of different backgrounds and views – professional, ethnic, national, religious, age, race, gender and sexual orientation – makes for lively, provocative encounters for all of us. We count on students to come away from classes feeling invigorated, excited and eager to apply what they have learned.
Our students always know people in their classes, and faculty members know their students. We do not believe in mass production of graduates; we prefer to work closely with a community of motivated students. Faculty, staff and students interact outside of class, in offices, the courtyard and our building’s atrium, because we know we can learn and exchange ideas in any setting. We lecture when necessary, but we prefer to build our classes on discussion and dialogue. We study and learn together.
We believe the steady growth of the Department of Journalism and Digital Communication is attributable to our exceptional faculty and staff and their dedication to students; our program’s flexibility and approach to journalism; our generally small classes and stimulating discussions; and our graduates’ successes in and outside of journalism.
Our program is challenging. We strive to help our students acquire both the skills and context to excel as journalists, users of media, or workers and leaders in other professions. We believe that journalism is more than a career. It is a calling — a calling we respect, support and nurture during good times and bad.
Revised November 2022.