|Wednesday, February 23, 2000||
Volume 65, Issue 101
Whitlock on prison reform
Ed De La Garza
In a world where journalists are more and more under fire for their news gathering and reporting ability (or lack thereof), it seems logical that schools of communication would make extra efforts to ensure their students know how to find, understand and accurately convey information. If anything, common sense dictates that colleges should prepare their communication students with more, not less, courses in news reporting and editing -- the basics of good journalism (and good public relations, advertising or any other type of communication).
But things at UH don't always make sense -- for example, the School of Communication's new "Plan 2000," unveiled just after the students went home for the summer.
The plan cuts 48 communication courses, many of them in journalism -- including news editing, advanced news writing, business and urban reporting, and opinion writing.
Rumor has it the skills taught in those courses will be retained either by adding new courses or by reworking existing ones. Planners have said the proposal is principally a change in wording. But as journalism students who have been through some of these courses, we can't help but be skeptical. (Hey, we learned it somewhere along the line.)
If "Plan 2000" is principally a change in nomenclature, why are so many courses being cut? Why are they mostly courses whose loss would appear to undermine well-rounded training in news gathering? Can we really expect these fundamental skills to be taught in other courses when those courses often have overloaded syllabi?
Our skepticism only grows when we consider the way the plan was approved. Faculty members agreed to it, yes, but they reportedly did so under pressure from the dean of Humanities, Fine Arts and Communication and the School of Communication Director Garth Jowett. By one account, Jowett told faculty they could support the plan or move on to another university. Is that fair?
As yet, we have no real answers -- only a great deal of waffling and what appears to be a botched public relations job. If "Plan 2000" is the end of traditional journalism instruction at UH, we wish someone would tell us so that we, too, could look into moving on to another university -- perhaps one with an adequate journalism program that attracts new students and potential employers. So far, we have no concrete evidence Plan 2000 will do that.