Dean's Column

Integrated newsroom addresses
students’ needs in changing world

By Will Norton Jr.

Fred Williams asserts in the third edition of the New Communications that the way in which we communicate is changing more than almost any other area of modern life.

“Although the whys of human communication remain unchanged,” he writes, “our ways of gathering and exchanging information, instructing ourselves and others, entertaining or being entertained, moving others to belief or action, interacting in groups, making decisions or managing organizations are changing considerably.”

Those preparing for careers in the mass media need to understand these changes. They must be able to communicate with audiences about these changes while working in an environment and in situations in which change is an ever-present reality.

Because of this, journalism/mass communications programs are facing changes in structure, curriculum and instruction. These changes are the result of technology that has affected the how, when and where we communicate and has had an influence on the what and why. It seems obvious that journalism/mass communications programs need to consider how to prepare their students for new ways of preparing and presenting news and commercial/promotional communication in all media.

The national conversation about how to make these changes has evolved from a review of the history of the way broadcasting departments were added to existing print journalism programs. Broadcasting departments often were established as entities that did both news and advertising/promotion with equipment as the common factor.
The NU College of Journalism and Mass Communications is trying to deal with this integration of news tasks and equipment by integrating its newsroom. The plan is for broadcasting and news-editorial to share a newsroom in Harold and Marian Andersen Hall.

The arrival of the Internet has brought the debate to a point where university programs that offer mass media courses are considering how to restructure.

The College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina restructured itself during the early 1990s. Only two sequences exist at USC: advertising and public relations; electronic and print journalism. Thus, a clear separation between news and commercial or persuasive communication is embedded in the very structure of the college.

The restructuring has not necessarily been easy. Faculty were used to dealing with colleagues in their own units. Integrating video and audio and print in each department can be complicated. However, USC is to be commended for moving ahead with the challenge, and our own faculty deserve all sorts of credit for exploring and carefully pursuing a track that leads into a media future that is very uncertain.

Two broadcasting faculty, Rick Alloway and Jerry Renaud, have taken the leadership at NU. They proposed a merged newsroom when the college moves to Andersen Hall. As a result of this merger of newsroom operations, each department will save $3,000 in Associated Press wire service fees, and news-editorial students will learn what broadcasting students do and vice versa.

To facilitate this cooperative venture, Rick Alloway, Charlyne Berens, Daryl Frazell, Jerry Renaud and George Tuck visited the newsroom of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Sarasota newspaper has had a merged newsroom for five years. We continue to hear of other newspapers that are moving to an integrated newsroom operation.

The decision of the faculty of this college to pursue an integrated newsroom indicates that no matter how media develop, our faculty are committed to adjusting their priorities to enable our students to be better prepared to adapt to media changes.

Clearly, the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska is adapting to change. As a result the college will more effectively serve students and, ultimately, media that will hire our graduates.