Ashland University Creates New Journalism and Digital Media Department

9/29/10 ASHLAND, OH -- Ashland University has reorganized its communication arts department and will now offer the first converged journalism and digital media degree of its kind in Ohio.

"The reorganization allowed us the opportunity to place a more direct focus on specific academic programs. The Department of Communication Studies is the administrative home for majors in Speech Communication and Sport Communication, while the Department of Journalism and Digital Media houses programs traditionally referred to as journalism, radio and television," said Dr. Dawn Weber, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Ashland University. "A more directed focus helps prospective students to more easily locate the program they are seeking and allows our faculty to focus on their areas of expertise."

Weber explained that the reorganization was announced in May and over the summer faculty members in the Department of Journalism and Digital Media created two majors with a converged curriculum to ensure that graduating students will have skills in writing and telling a story as well as shooting and editing the story for broadcast (radio, TV and web).

"Ashland University will have the first converged media curriculum of this type in the state of Ohio and will graduate students prepared to enter this fast changing industry," Weber said. "Both the students and faculty are excited about the more direct focus the university is placing on their programs."

Both Weber and Tim McCarty, professional instructor, TV adviser and interim chair for the new department, talked about the history of Ashland University's radio and TV program, which had a reputation as the best in the state during the 1970s and 1980s.

"There is no doubt that we have amazingly talented alumni in the broadcasting field and our alumni have been extremely helpful in providing gifts of equipment, internship opportunities for our students and coming to campus as guest speakers," Weber said. "They'll be the first to tell you that the field has changed enormously since they were students at Ashland. While we can't go back in time, it is our goal to once again be known as a premier program in journalism and digital media within the state."

McCarty agreed, noting he was aware of the strong reputation of Ashland University's radio and TV department.

"One of the reasons I took this job was in my research I discovered that Ashland's radio and TV department had a long history of producing phenomenal content and producing outstanding talent," McCarty said. "The challenge I couldn't pass up was the opportunity to help this department return to prominence as an institution that produces quality programming and outstanding journalists and media production students."

McCarty said that starting this past spring, faculty members researched converged media education pedagogy at the higher education level and found several of these programs at large institutions.

"To date, there is no small college teaching media converged. We understood the value of that and we jumped all over it," McCarty said. "Then we created our curriculum based on what we saw at these large institutions and brought it down to a small college level."

McCarty said the two majors -- digital media journalism major and a digital media production major - will continue to emphasize liberal arts education in the core at Ashland and teach the media students to be critical thinkers and seek social justice.

"The difference for us, as a media department, is that we have added the practical component for literally teaching students the practice of creating media content," McCarty said. "Our goal in JDM is to provide the rigorous coursework along with practical laboratory to build a foundation for our students to meet the challenges of a converged media industry."

McCarty also noted that faculty members have spent considerable time updating and retooling the newly formed department, which has seen the installation of five new TV monitors, Blu-ray DVD players, DVD/VHS combo players, network file storage drives, and two new Final Cut Pro editing systems.

"We have a lot of exciting things that we are rolling out gradually this year. For example, the radio station WRDL is fully automated now," he said. "This allows students to produce content separate, edit that content, load it into the automation system and program when it plays back. This replicates the industry today."

Gretchen Dworznik, assistant professor of broadcast communications, believes the department reorganization is a good thing. "The reorganization has given us the ability to concentrate on what we do," she said.

Dworznik said the reorganization will allow the department to better provide information about what skills and knowledge are needed in the industry. "They will know everything, whether it's tied to video or audio, so they can get a job in the media world now. You can't be specialized anymore...you need to wear all hats," she said.
Ashland University (www.ashland.edu<http://www.ashland.edu>) is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.