Upcoming semester brings changes to Journalism and Broadcasting department

Rebekah Alvey

The fall semester will bring several changes to the WKU journalism and broadcasting department including new leadership, faculty and curriculum. 

New leadership in journalism and broadcasting

In Oct. 2016, current director of the journalism and broadcasting department, Loup Langton, announced that he would be stepping down from his position. This change will be in effect Jun. 30.

Larry Snyder, Dean of the Potter College, created a search committee consisting of journalism and broadcasting faculty and named Andrew McMichael, Assistant Dean of the Potter College, chair of the committee. 

After going through all the steps of the search, including the top candidates coming to campus in April, Snyder said he decided to close the search. Snyder said he made the decision to reject the candidates because there was no consensus of support for either candidate. 

McMichael said he is frequently involved with search committees and a failure to select a candidate is not unusual. He said you don’t want to rush these searches.

Snyder said the search would restart in the fall and a new search committee will be selected by him. In the meantime, an interim director will be appointed. Snyder said he has not made that decision yet but will do so before Langton steps down. 

Snyder said he is looking for someone with an academic background as well as professional experience in the field. The school of journalism and broadcasting has had three directors, and Snyder said selecting each one is “tricky.”

“That person needs to be forward looking,” Snyder said. “How to make necessary changes in education of our journalists, so they are prepared to enter a rapidly changing professional environment.” 

Snyder said traditional categories like writing and photography are being blended in journalism, so the department needs someone fluent in many platforms. He said the next director would also need to be student focused and able to adjust curriculum based on changes in the profession.

Snyder said the school has also made progress with international outreach by making connections with other institutions and wants to see that continue with a new director. 

Langton said he was appointed by Snyder to be the Turner Endowed Professor which involves examining and promoting being an agent for the future of journalism. He said his new role would involve taking an innovative approach to the department, creating partnerships with outside groups and maintaining international reach.

Langton said he is looking at partnerships in the area of social media and organizations that are progressive with how information is shared.

Faculty hires provide new experiences 

Last semester, it was also announced that Ben and Victoria LaPoe would be leaving WKU. A search committee comprised of journalism and broadcasting faculty has been working to fill these positions.

Recently Rich Shumate, whose background includes 10 years with CNN as well as other professional experience, was selected as a journalism professor. Shumate is also a third-year doctoral student at University of Florida’s Journalism and Communications. 

Langton said based on his record, Shumate has been successful in all his endeavors with professional experience. 

“He gets it in terms of where media and journalism are headed,” Langton said.

Snyder said he was pleased with the hires in journalism and believes they will diversify the faculty and provide experience and vitality to the program.

“We are trying to hire people who are appropriate to needs, not just as we currently have them but also where we think we might be going,” Snyder said. 

Shumate said he hopes to share his professional experience with students and teach them to be adaptable in the journalism environment. He said in the past journalists would focus on one medium, but now there is a concentration on skill in all mediums.

Shumate said he was looking for a position with an opportunity to interact with students and the size of WKU and the department filled that need. 

Faculty, including Shumate, return to campus in August. 

Ad and PR move to Communications Department

On July 1. Advertising and Public Relations majors will be moving from the department of Journalism and Broadcasting to Communications. 

Snyder said the change in directors was the perfect time for the move to strengthen both departments.

“Ad and PR’s new home in communications is a very natural fit,” Snyder said. 

After talking with professionals, Snyder said there is a lot of excitement with this change. Snyder said a lot of things in Ad and PR curriculum are already being taught in communications which will strengthen the major.

For the school of Journalism and Broadcasting, Snyder said the curriculum would be tightened and focused on the core mission of the school. For majors in journalism and broadcasting, they are now able to complete their required double major or minor in Ad or PR since it is now outside the school. 

Snyder said they do not know the official location for Ad and PR, but for now they are staying in Mass Media and Technology Hall. Ideally, Snyder said, Ad and PR will be housed with communications or in  close proximity.

The changes will not impact students who are currently in Ad and PR.

Helen Sterk, department head of communication, said the department is in the process of developing curriculum that will integrate the new majors. Sterk said her primary goal for students in communications is for them to graduate with liberal arts-based education in addition to a specific focus.

Sterk said in the redesign of the curriculum, every major is required to take a class or two in another major which broadens the range of learning.

Sterk said the new curriculum would decrease hours for a major which allows students to double major. She said they would also create a set of certificates in the major.

At WKU, new curriculum must be approved by the college, university and then the Board of Regents. Sterk said students could expect to see changes in curriculum and the department in 2018. 

“The intention is that no students will be disadvantaged by the change and in fact, their lives will get better,” Sterk said. 

There have been mixed emotions with all of the changes. Sterk said whenever you deal with something new, especially in academics, there is a period of apprehension.

Langton said some people are more comfortable with change which makes the transitions exciting while others are still hesitant. 

“I think mutual respect will hold the day,” Sterk said.

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].