J-schools are needed now more than ever
In fifth grade, I was assigned to be a news reporter for a day during a field trip dedicated to economics, learning how to operate a town and write a check. My task for the day was to go around to the businesses and make video commercials.
In ninth grade, I sat in the school’s counselor’s office deciding whether to take web programming or electronic media. Not having an interest in either, I blurted out, “Electronic Media.”
It was through this class, along with the guidance of a middle school English teacher and four broadcast teachers that I found myself searching for colleges with journalism programs.
Hastings College, a small liberal arts school in Nebraska, stuck out, so I applied and eventually attended.
Through my time at the college, I learned of the rich history of the journalism department and building.
A young alum and my eventual journalism professor, Sharon Brooks, wanted to expand the offerings at the college and helped spearhead ideas and time to open a communication arts building, that would be multi-faceted. It would offer the first computer lab in the state of Nebraska as well as a control room for a campus radio station.
In September of 1988, President Ronald Reagan spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the state-of-the-art C.J. and Marie Gray Center for Communication Arts building, acknowledging it was unlike anything else and would provide opportunities to students to broadcast and send information across the globe.
Reagan’s final remarks were the first heard on the college radio station, 90.1 KFKX, announcing that it was officially “on-air.”
I spent many hours in this building, learning, producing, writing and even just talking with friends. I learned the value of journalism, how to tell a story and how to tell it correctly.
I never expected to start my career in newspaper, but I am thankful for the opportunity I had at Hastings College to grow and be equipped to go into any field of media.
In June 2016, KFKX went off the air. The final minutes played Reagan’s words, the official station identification and the phrase “Elvis has left the building,” thanks to our beloved sound engineer.
This past May, the last Bachelor of Arts in Journalism degrees from the college were awarded. The journalism program is over, done with, a thing of the past.
Due to the growth of digital media and art, a new building on campus was constructed to offer more art-based programs to students. While this program will offer new and exciting things, students no longer have an opportunity to learn journalism. In a time when our nation is in information overload from so many sources and people are focused on “fake news,” we need journalism more than ever.
A nation-wide campaign called #SaveStudentNewsrooms was started by around 140 student newsrooms in April.
“Student-run media organizations need to start calling attention to the challenges we face,” the Save Student Newsrooms website states. “We encourage student-run organizations to publish editorials highlighting the need for student media and the importance of supporting it.”
A small group of students at Hastings has been advocating for the continuation of the program. While administration supports the student-run media, the courses and learning programs have faded away.
Our multi-media, student-created website is gone, leaving many of us without a digital portfolio (another reason to support print publications).
As a journalist, it is crushing to see this happen.
Journalism is important now more than ever. Stories have to be told quickly, accurately and to a mass audience.
Social media has allowed anyone to believe they are a journalist, making it hard to decide what information is right and what is wrong.
And not as many Americans sit down in the morning and read the newspaper or watch the 5 p.m. broadcast news.
Because we get information from so many outlets, we need skilled, professional journalists to get factual and verified information.
Communities, like Fredericksburg, deserve to be well-informed. But without future journalists, how will this happen?
In his speech, Reagan said he hoped the students who came to the Gray Center served as a “window on the world … in a day where we’ve seen an explosion of communications technology” (and this was the 1980s). Reagan said the students will “carry (those skills) with them when they leave, to ply their skills elsewhere in a profession that at times does not seem to appreciate the simpler virtues.”
It is my hope that colleges and universities listen to students and realize the value student journalists play in the future.
Because you never know, they could end up reporting news that’s important to you for the local newspaper.