In the past, a journalism student enrolled in Brooklyn College had two options; an English degree or a Broadcast Journalism degree. By the fall of next year the two journalism programs will merge into one, creating a new Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism and Media Studies.
The discussion for the merge began in 2013. Many faculty and students agreed that the decision was a wise one for the college to move forward and progress by providing a comprehensive curriculum for all journalism students whether they were interested in writing for a magazine, working for a local radio station, or attaining any of the various positions available to freshly graduated journalism students.
According to Professor Anthony Mancini, “What influenced our decision to merge was the realization that having two separate journalism programs in the same institution was wasteful and anachronistic and failed to reflect the sweeping changes in the journalism landscape and thus ill-served our students.”
Although Mancini is the Chairperson of the English Journalism Department, it was Professor Paul Moses who said, “the whole system was very archaic,” and initially proposed a merge with the Journalism and Media Studies Department. The Journalism and Media Studies or Broadcast Television and Radio Department, being without leadership for several years, recently appointed a new director, giving Moses the opportunity to work closely with someone on the merge. That someone was Professor John Anderson.
Once word got around on campus that there was a new qualified and accessible Director of the Broadcast Journalism department “we started seeing a massive influx of new students,” said Anderson. He continued on to say, “So in the past four years since I’ve been here, the number of students in broadcast journalism has increased by more than 30 percent.” Following the momentum of the rejuvenated broadcast department, Anderson accepted Moses’ invitation to merge the two programs. Then the hard work began.
“I don’t dread anything about the merger, except to note that the work it takes to synthesize the two programs promises to be arduous but also rewarding,” Mancini said. The merging of two departments is indeed a long and tedious task, so much so that the idea was initially rejected. Moses admitted that there was strong resistance to the merge from the leaders in the English Department at first, but now they are cooperating.
The blending of the two departments first had to be proposed then evaluated and finally approved by the college administration before it could become official. The process also involved an outside evaluator meeting with faculty and students to review the proposed new curriculum and finding out exactly what the journalism students at Brooklyn college wanted and needed.
Faraz Toor, an English Journalism major who served as editor-in-chief for The Excelsior, was one of the students involved in the evaluation process. According to Toor, two students were chosen to have lunch with outside evaluators and professors were not allowed to join because “they wanted us to feel free to say what we wanted without worrying if anything might offend the department.” Toor went on to say, “The evaluators did not ask us our opinions on new courses, because new courses had not been developed; they asked us, however, what new media we would have liked to learn from the journalism program. They wanted to know more about what the journalism courses, in our opinion, lacked because they were centered mostly around the written word and crafted with print journalism more in mind than other media.”
According to Moses, both reports from the outside evaluators supported the merge and insisted that “if we didn’t do that, we weren’t serving the students very well.”
As a result, the new JAMS program has a 48 credit major requirement in order to obtain the degree and offers an extensive list of courses for journalism students to take ranging from TVRA 3728: Fundamentals of Newswriting, to TVRA 4269: Culture Jamming and Media Prankersterism, a specialty course designed by Anderson himself.
“Theres still a lot of work to do and a lot of this is going to come down to resources,” said Anderson, who explained there are only 1.5 full time faculty currently in the Broadcast Department and over 100 students to cater to. Ideally faculty from the English department would transfer over but Anderson said, “we need more.” Currently the college has made no commitments to hire new faculty but all in favor of the merge are hopeful that everything will work out for the benefit of the students.
Elizabeth Mokrousova, a Broadcast Journalism major and one of the students intending to transfer to the new program said, “The new JAMS program is enticing me because it has a lot of new [courses] that the old program doesn’t have. I was just looking into data journalism and data journalism is something that I feel like we would need in the future and the current program doesn’t have this.”
“The current program also focuses mostly on TV production and radio production but media now is all over the internet and on phone apps more so than it is on just television and radio. So the new major encompasses all of that and I feel like that’s really important,” said Mokrousova.
All new fall journalism students will come in under the JAMS program. While current journalism majors are not required to change over to the new program, they are encouraged to explore the new curriculum and take advantage of all the program has to offer.
“It’s a lot more hands on now so we can actually create a lot more content within the major instead of having to create it outside of going to college,” Mokrousova said.
Despite the immense amount of work it took, and will continue to take, to implement the new curriculum and fully merge the two journalism departments on Brooklyn College, it seems everyone is looking forward to the future. Regardless, according to Anderson, “As of the fall of next year, it’s JAMS.”