A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Journalism In-Brief

By Quill

Columbia’s e-mail on mission raises debate

A barrage of worried and angry e-mail messages and phone calls greeted Columbia University administrators July 24, a day after the university’s president, Lee C. Bollinger, said that the Graduate School of Journalism needed to rethink its mission before appointing a new dean.

In an e-mail to faculty, students and staff, Bollinger wrote: “To teach the craft of journalism is a worthy goal, but clearly insufficient in this new world and within the setting of a great university.”

He said he believed the school should be more academic in its approach and delve more deeply into substantive issues such as the role of journalism and a free press, and how communications is changing.

Many of the responses reflected the fervor of long-standing arguments – at Columbia and other universities – between those who believe that journalism schools should be dedicated to teaching skills and those who think they should take a more academic approach, The New York Times reported.

David A. Klatell, the school’s new acting dean, said he received about 150 e-mail comments and that they were divided.

“Some were quite positive, some merely quizzical, and some were angry,” he said.

UC-Davis editor to keep job despite spoof

The editor of the University of California-Davis campus newspaper will keep his job, despite complaints about a recent spoof edition that was called sexist and racist.

Following testimony from three complainants, the Campus Media Board agreed that there were violations of The Aggie’s policies in the June 7 issue. However, the board said that editor-in-chief Fitzgerald Vo wouldn’t lose his job.

The spoof edition included explicit language and a photo of children playing on two campus sculptures that had a phallic symbol superimposed between them, KCRA-TV3 reported.

Vo, a junior who took over as editor of the California Aggie on June 1, said the issue was “not indicative of what I intend to do in my tenure at The Aggie.”

The board is recommending a public forum to discuss community concerns about the paper and possibly implementing cultural ethics and diversity training. In addition, they are suggesting hiring a professional journalist to act as an adviser to The Aggie.

Iowa State seeks new J-school head

Iowa State University officials said July 19 they would begin a nationwide search for a new head of the journalism department this fall.

John Eighmey, chairman of the Greenlee School of Journalism, will step down when a replacement is found, said Peter Rabideau, dean of liberal arts and sciences.

Rabideau told Greenlee faculty that he and Eighmey decided that Eighmey would join the faculty after a new head joins the staff. That could be as early as January. Eighmey had served as chairman for six years.

The decision to look for a new chairman came after the university’s president and provost asked for an assessment of the school’s leadership needs in the wake of a temporary suspension of the department leadership in May amid allegations of racism, according to The Associated Press.

“It was unfortunate and unfair that earlier comments about alleged racism impugned the reputation of John Eighmey and (associate chairman) Joel Geske,” Rabideau wrote in a letter to Greenlee faculty.

Rabideau said the situation at Greenlee isn’t “one of overt racism, but rather that incivility and insensitivity by some faculty members has created a negative environment for minority faculty members.”

ISU provost Rollin Richmond had removed John Eighmey, the journalism school’s chairman, and Joel Geske, the associate chairman, from their administrative posts, although the two remained on the faculty, The Des Moines Register reported.

However, ISU President Gregory Geoffroy ordered that they be reinstated while a university committee determines whether the complaints are credible.

Salaries and perks offered to newer, minority professors in ISU’s journalism school have sparked questions about discrimination against white professors with seniority, Richmond said. The alleged hostility prompted three junior professors, two of them black, to pursue jobs elsewhere, he said.

In this year’s evaluations of Eighmey, one unidentified professor complained about “new, privileged minority hires” and “the unabated and unrelieved discriminatory backlash against established faculty.” Another professor wrote that the six junior professors, half of whom are black, “have been given all kinds of special privileges.”

Richmond said he believes the problems at the school are broader than racism, according The Tribune in Ames, Iowa.

The school has a structure that pitted senior faculty against the department chair and junior faculty against senior faculty, he said.