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Professionalism can't be overemphasized: teach standards, values, ethics, and skills.

Are aspiring journalists better-served by majoring in journalism or by seeking a "more traditional liberal arts education" in college? The question asked last summer on the National Conference of Editorial Writers listserv sets up a false dichotomy. Journalism majors at the best journalism programs in the United States receive a strong liberal arts education and superior professional education, as well as a solid grounding in the values and practices of the profession.

The importance of teaching professional ethics and practice cannot be over-emphasized. A primary mission of journalism education is to teach and do research about the role of journalism in a democratic society. Bob Giles, director of the Neiman Center at Harvard University, has called for "a renewed dedication to teaching about the standards, values, and theories of journalism."

In his 2003 Ruhl Lecture at the University of Oregon, Tom Rosenstiel, vice chair of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, told us that we must do a better job of understanding and articulating the "responsibilities and principles" that define journalism as a profession.

Journalism programs are the only place on most university campuses where faculty who have both experience in industry practice and academic credentials are teaching students how to be good journalists, and why professional values matter.

Educating journalists begins with a broad foundation in the arts and sciences. Students attending a journalism program accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, our national accrediting body, will take more than half of their classes in the liberal arts.

An undergraduate student in the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication takes a minimum of sixty-five percent of the total credits required for graduation outside the school. Courses in English, history, and economics and in at least three other liberal arts and sciences subject areas are required. Students are encouraged to complete a second major or a minor in the arts and sciences, business, design, or other related majors.

Journalism courses are structured to give students the specific knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the newsroom. The curriculum integrates the teaching of journalistic skills with courses such as law, ethics, economics, and media management. We place great emphasis on teaching a set of core literacy in writing, visual communication, information gathering, and critical thinking. And our commitment to teaching competency in writing goes beyond professional writing courses to all courses in the school.

No other major has as strong an emphasis on the craft of reporting, writing, and editing, and on telling stories with words, pictures, and design. And no other major integrates the teaching of journalism ethics and professional responsibility into every course.

Students are encouraged to complete internships. The school's career services coordinator provides workshops on interviewing, resume writing, and other essential job skills. The coordinator and professors who maintain close ties in the industry help students find the right fit for their first, second, and even third internship.

We encourage students to join the staff of the Oregon Daily Emerald, our award-winning independent student newspaper. You don't have to be a journalism major to work at the ODE, but it helps. The majority of the staff and nearly all the top editors are journalism students.

Students with an interest in feature writing or magazine writing, editing, or design may compete for a spot on Flux, the school's award-winning annual magazine. Students writing for Flux, the Oregon Daily Emerald, and other publications are encouraged to enter the Hearst Journalism Awards competition, which is open only to students in an accredited journalism program.

In this age of convergence, the print journalism major has the opportunity to take courses in video production or cyberjournalism, or even to double major in broadcast news.

Perhaps more important than all these opportunities is the fact that students majoring in journalism are part of a community that cares about the journalist's role in society, the future of journalism, and the future of democracy.

When journalists are struggling with the ethical crisis of the moment, students in our classrooms have the benefit of immediate discussions with professional journalists and with professors who have deep knowledge of practice and ethics.

The journalism curriculum offers a high-quality professional education grounded in the liberal arts with an emphasis on teaching professional ethics and values. There are other paths to a career in journalism, but none that offers all that is available at a good accredited journalism program.

Journalists and journalism educators need to focus on the challenge of recruiting the best students into the field. If you are not already involved, please join in the important conversation about how we can better work together to recruit and educate the next generation of journalists.

Tim Gleason is Edwin L. Artzt dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, E-mail
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Title Annotation:Masthead Symposium
Author:Gleason, Tim
Publication:The Masthead
Date:Mar 22, 2004
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