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Op Ed: Decisions at DSU, the End of Journalism, the End of True Transparency

Delta State’s Journalism department is dead.

The decision was made at the administrative level to kill it, and it’s most fervent supporters chose to bury it this week in a symbolic funeral ceremony on the school’s Quad.

They also buried Communications, Theatre Studies, Athletic Training, Modern Foreign Languages and Insurance and Real Estate.

Ultimately, the decision to eliminate Journalism, and the others mentioned, as majors was one of business.

As for the supporters of the Journalism major’s continuation, there has been no real presentation of a viable business plan that would justify Delta State moving forward with the Journalism program or the Delta Statement, particularly in their current state.

The situation that now exists between the administration and supporters of the Journalism program is unfortunate to say the least.

Tension has boiled over between students, faculty and the administration, even resulting in a Federal lawsuit filed by longtime professor Bill Hayes against DSU President Bill LaForge.

Through all of the emotionally charged debates and the bickering, no supporter of the Journalism department or the Delta Statement has issued a viable business plan to save either entity.

In the business world, your existence does not justify your existence. All majors should be made to carry their own fiscal weight or risk being cut.

That being said, no one should be so quick as to bury the potential for a future thriving Journalism program to exist.

I may come off as biased, being a graduate of the Journalism program at DSU, but I would contend, of the half dozen programs slated for the axe, Journalism stands out as the one with the most potential to thrive moving forward.

Many people ignorantly say that journalism is dying.

Print journalism might have seen its better days, but journalism has never been more ubiquitous in our society.

Never in the history of the United States has journalism thrived more than it is thriving today. The Internet is filled with journalism startups, apps and blogs, and there are even thriving print publications, contrary to popular belief.

Websites like LinkedIn are full of articles that cover business, economy, politics and everyday life.

And never before has the opportunity to profit from journalism been so great.

With dinosaur media outlets like ABC, NBC and FOX struggling to keep up, millions of dollars are being invested into online companies like Politico, Huffington Post, MSN and Yahoo, which provide millions of people fast and relevant information each day.

Keeping DSU’s Journalism program, as is, would likely be a foolish business decision.

But moving forward without a Journalism major at all is equally foolish.

The same can be said for the student publication, The Delta Statement, which, if all reports are true, will be relegated to an online product in the near future..

The current Journalism department at DSU may be underground today, but I would encourage LaForge and others to strongly consider resurrecting and revamping the major very soon.

Since no one has offered a viable business plan for the department or the student publication, I’ll give it a shot.

 

  1. Rebrand the Department

Much has been made about the low number of students in the Journalism department at DSU, as well as the stagnant graduation rate. If you want to attract top talent to the program, the major must be relevant. The department should be rebranded The Delta School of New Media and Journalism. In order to make a good living in journalism in the 21st Century, students must know how to express themselves in print articles, digital blogs, tweets and on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and the hundreds of other tools that have yet to be invented. Students need to know they are coming to a program designed to equip them for high-end jobs in the journalism field. They also want a program that fosters innovation and startups. Making the school’s new major technology-based and millennial-friendly will attract the top talent needed to sustain the program.

2.  Collaborate Across Curriculum

Journalism advisors cannot do it all. Often, they are qualified to advise on editorial and design content but fall short in advertising and finance. Students, as well, often fall short when it comes to business management. The Delta School of New Media and Journalism’s student publication will have two advisors. One will be from the Journalism department, and the other will be from the College of Business. The journalism professor will advise on matters of content, and the business professor will manage the books and teach students the business of running a print/digital publication, as well as how to gather investors for startups and running a small business. I think most would see the benefits and unending potential from collaborating with the college’s most lucrative department.

3.  Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Startups

Of all the programs DSU is determined to cut, Journalism stands as the only one with the potential to consistently produce entrepreneurs. Students who are equipped to perform all of the tasks required of a 21st Century journalist deserve better than the low-end salary of $18,000 and the median salary of $28,000 they receive going to work at a traditional Mississippi newspaper. But they cannot receive higher salaries if they do not bring the added value of new media to the table. Further, entrepreneurs and their startups are the combined Little Engine That Could, which is slowly pulling us up the hill and out of the recession. Every institution of higher learning should strive to be a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and startups. Technology-based journalism provides the potential for all three.

4.  A Cheaper Alternative

Delta State has never been an inferior alternative to any university in Mississippi, but it has a reputation of being a cheaper alternative to schools like Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss. By transforming the Journalism school into a relevant 21st Century center for new media, DSU will be able to attract top talent from competitive schools by offering the same services for a cheaper price. The added value and lower cost will drive numbers and money and will potentially turn this small state university into a hub for innovation.

 

I realize these seem like pie in the sky ideas to some, but it could be a reality if DSU’s administration and the old guard of the Language and Literature department would embrace them

Slashing budgets this day and age is tough but necessary. But it is not the solution to a sustainable financial existence. Creating new and innovative programs that attract top talent to the school should be the end goal.

I realize this article will likely fail to result in DSU’s Journalism program not being cut, but I hope I have made the decision a little more difficult and perhaps keep the conversation moving.

Bryan Davis is a native Mississippian, a DSU grad, and is the Real Estate reporter for the Birmingham Business Journal in Birmingham, Al. and can be reached at 205-443-5626 or bryandavis@bizjournals.com

OP ED Policy: We welcome qualified Op Ed pieces to be published on this website. In the interest of balance, if an opposing opinion piece is submitted, we will run that also. The News Mississippi Editorial Staff reserves the right to publish at its discretion. 

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