J-school needs support to stay competitive

Part of President Mark Yudof’s $249 million Capital Bonding Request for the University calls for funding a complete renovation and updating of Murphy Hall on the East Bank.
Murphy Hall was the first building in the country erected for the academic study of journalism (in 1940), and is still home to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC), 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 (ABC Evening News), Hattie Kaufman (Good Morning, America), Marc Watts (CNN), and Chris Ison (Star Tribune Pulitzer Prize winner), as well as Joe Nagy (Martin Agency, Carmichael-Lynch).
Thousands of other SJMC alumni work in the state’s 400 newspapers, 300 radio stations, 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 and democratic system of Minnesota.
The SJMC 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 SJMC 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.
The school’s enrollment is approximately 850 — 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 publications and businesses with communication departments because of the high quality of education and training they receive here.
SJMC students not only take skills courses, but also 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 mass media market in the country. It is a multi-billion dollar industry in Minnesota. Clearly, past and future SJMC graduates — about 3800 in Minnesota — form a vital part of the business world.
If the SJMC withers away for lack of full support from the Legislature — and it will without passage of the University’s capital bonding request, which includes Murphy Hall — 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 comparable programs in other states for their education; many will not return. And for that, the Minnesota communication industry will suffer.
It is true that legislators have to consider many issues when deciding on the University’s funding request, and I appreciate the difficulties they face. I support the entire request and hope that legislators in the House and Senate will find a way to fund it in its entirety.
Funding the University benefits the whole 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, both locally, nationally and worldwide.

Nahid Khan is a graduate student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.