Journalism in jeopardy at CU?

The University of Colorado Board of Regents could act as early as today to scrap the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and build a new program from the ground up. That new program, as recommended by CU President Bruce Benson and others, would allow students to obtain a degree in journalism, but only as part of another major.

There are clearly some problems at the journalism school that need to be addressed, including what independent evaluators termed “almost open insurrection” among the J-school faculty.

Even so, we’re less than enthusiastic about the proposed solution. For one thing, it’s hard to imagine that the flagship institution of higher learning in Colorado would no longer have a stand-alone journalism department, or offer journalism as a primary degree.

Additionally, the notion that a new program — one that focuses on new forms of media — can be constructed anew and eliminate all of the problems of the old program, much less be the sort of program that attracts top students to CU, may be little more than wishful thinking.

But, our greatest concern is that, no matter how CU decides to formulate its journalism offerings, the university needs to provide prospective journalists a solid foundation in reporting and writing skills, ethics and accuracy, objectivity versus opinion. And that requires having a top-notch faculty and curriculum.

However news may be delivered in coming decades, those skills will remain critical for news organizations that hope to maintain credibility in the eyes of the public. Credible news reporting is also critical to an educated citizenry that is engaged in our republic.

So we urge the CU Regents to be careful in how they revamp the Journalism School. Attempts to fix the existing problems at the school shouldn’t tinker with core J-school teaching. That would in a journalism program which is second-rate.


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