State must fund media program

Part of President Mark Yudof’s $249 million capital bonding request for the University of Minnesota calls for funding a complete renovation and updating of Murphy Hall on the East Bank campus.
Murphy Hall was the first building in the country erected for the academic study of journalism and is still home to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, which has offered instruction for the past 70 years.
Eric Sevareid, Harrison Salisbury, Harry Reasoner, Carl Rowan and Ambassador Gerri Joseph are just a few of the alumni of the Journalism School who have gone on to prominent careers in journalism, mass communication and other professions.
More recent graduates include Michele Norris of ABC News, Hattie Kaufman of Good Morning America, CNN’s Marc Watts and Chris Ison, Star Tribune Pulitzer Prize winner.
Thousands of the school’s alumni work in the state’s 400 newspapers, 300 radio and 24 television stations, as well as the Twin Cities’ 130 public relations firms and advertising agencies and 200 Internet businesses, playing a vital role in the economy of Minnesota and maintaining our democratic form of government.
The school has highly-regarded undergraduate degree programs in journalism, advertising, and public relations and top-ranked master’s and doctoral degree programs. The school is staffed by world-renowned faculty who are top experts in their field. It attracts the best undergraduate — 60 percent of the program’s majors are transfer students who come to the University because of the reputation of this program — and graduate students from Minnesota, the rest of the country and around the world.
It has an enrollment of approximately 850 at present — the second-highest enrollment of any major in the College of Liberal Arts. Its graduates are in great demand by Minnesota newspapers, radio and television stations, public relations firms, advertising agencies, Internet businesses and all businesses who have communication departments because of the high quality of education and training they receive at the University of Minnesota.
Students in the school take important courses such as information gathering, media ethics, media law, history of journalism, advertising, public relations, visual communication, public opinion, management and international communication — all in the context of a broad-based liberal arts curriculum.
It is this kind of education that is indispensable for the future of the communication industry in Minnesota. The Twin Cities is the sixth-largest media market in the country. It is a multi-billion dollar industry in Minnesota. Clearly, the school’s graduates form a vital part of the business world. There are about 3,800 graduates who live in Minnesota.
They play a vital role in all segments of society: they bring us the news, arts and entertainment; They keep us informed; and most importantly, they help maintain our democratic system of government.
If the school withers away for lack of full support from the Legislature — and it will without passage of Yudof’s capital bonding request — who will fill all those jobs in this burgeoning communication industry in Minnesota?
Without a strong journalism school at the University, many students interested in careers in journalism and communication will go to programs in other states for their education; many will not return. And with that, the entire Minnesota communication industry will suffer.
It is true that legislators have to consider many issues when deciding on the University’s request and I appreciate the difficulties they face. I support the entire University request and hope that legislators in the House and Senate will find a way to fund it all.
Funding the University benefits the entire state in innumerable ways, including serving as the biggest job creator in Minnesota. For a modest investment — both in the University and in Murphy Hall — the returns will be enormous.
— Nahid Khan is a graduate student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editor of the school’s publications, the Murphy Reporter and the Murphy Monthly.