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Letter from the Director

timAlbert.jpgFor us to equate the economic collapse of many major daily newspapers with the end of society's need for quality journalism or educated journalists is a bit like equating the economic crisis facing General Motors with the end of our dependence on the automobile for transportation.

Albert R. TimsEven as some question the future of journalism, advertising and the traditional mass media, our students are as eager as ever to be effective and influential storytellers. They're able to see the potential for exciting careers in new areas of practice and want to incorporate what we've long called "new media" into the established roles of mainstream media. They're largely unfazed by the crash of bricks falling away from the walls of "old media" institutions.

For us to equate the economic collapse of many major daily newspapers with the end of society's need for quality journalism or educated journalists is a bit like equating the economic crisis facing General Motors with the end of our dependence on the automobile for transportation. Citizens in democratic societies need credible news and information from credible sources just as most of us need personal transportation. It's with this sense of opportunity and optimism that we're striving to prepare our students to meet the new challenges of effective storytelling amid the rapidly evolving channels of distribution, collaboration and social exchange.

The economic challenges faced by traditional media outlets today and the explosion of emerging media and social media networks make this one of the most exciting and challenging times in the history of communication. What news organization can survive without storytellers able to work with text, data, video, still images, graphics and sound? What new product can be launched without a comprehensive communications plan involving new media tools? What business or corporation isn't using online and social media to communicate with employees, customers, vendors and community stakeholders? Journalists and communicators of today, and tomorrow, must be able to leverage technology to elevate their storytelling. At the SJMC, we are adapting our curriculum to meet the demand for these new skills--skills that will be necessary for our students to succeed in the contemporary domestic and global marketplace.

The SJMC's undergraduate major remains the single highest demand program in the College of Liberal Arts. Because of this demand, admission to the major requires a secondary application process. Even with this competitive admissions process, the School serves more than 1,100 undergraduate majors and premajors, and more than 300 mass communication minors, in addition to our vibrant graduate program.

Read through the alumni news at the back of any issue of the Murphy Reporter and you'll see that our graduates are finding tremendous new opportunities to work in their chosen field--as news producers, as writers, as reporters, as bloggers, in public relations, in corporate communications, in advertising and, more recently, in the emerging field of social media communication.

During the coming year, we hope to embark on a strategic planning process that will leverage the many successes of our New Media Initiative, the last major strategic planning initiative in 1998. Our goal will be to ensure that the SJMC is positioned as a signature program for the University of Minnesota and that the School remains a national and international leader in journalism and mass communication education, research and curriculum development. We will assess best practices of leading peer institutions, evaluate infrastructure requirements and define the long-term institutional commitments necessary to stay at the forefront of journalism and mass communication education. We will also continue to establish innovative institutional partnerships and industry collaborations.

As we move forward with the strategic planning process, we will invite alumni and members of the professional community to join us in the conversation. We will need your good counsel to help us craft a plan that is truly visionary and forward thinking and supports our long-standing role as one of the nation's leading institutions for the study of journalism and mass communication. I encourage you to participate in our dialogue.

Best,
Albert R. Tims, director