Murphy renovation

Michelle Moriarity

Editor’s note: More than $400 million is earmarked to build and renovate numerous University facilities during the next several years, thanks to a 1998 capital budget windfall and private donations. This is the final installment in a 10-part series, ‘Reconstructing the U,’ detailing how the massive rejuvenation effort will affect every student, staff and faculty member in addition to reshaping the school’s physical appearance.

In 1940, faculty and students in what was then the University’s Department of Journalism welcomed to campus the first facility designed solely for journalism instruction.
Murphy Hall housed the latest technology, including teletype machines, typing laboratories and editing and advertising layout rooms.
Almost 60 years later, neglect and lack of funding have reduced the once-revered facility to a shadow of its former self. While the School of Journalism and Mass Communication has maintained a strong national reputation for quality education, decaying classrooms filled with outdated equipment tell a different story.
Bursting at the seams with students instructed by a dwindling faculty, the school has faced accreditation probation and the threat of extinction.
But thanks to some much-needed funding, journalism administrators will work to ensure that this story has a happy ending.
A $9 million legislative windfall will turn Murphy Hall into a modernized, technology-friendly facility; $1 million in supplementary funds will fill the building with updated equipment, and a $1 million increase in the school’s annual budget will provide salaries for as many as 10 new faculty.
University President Mark Yudof’s New Media Initiative fueled the acquisition of this money. Upon arriving in Minnesota, Yudof expressed a strong interest in strengthening the University’s journalism education. Updating the school’s technology, creating ties with the local professional community and buoying the school’s already-strong research programs were all on Yudof’s agenda.
“The kinds of environments that our students are moving into are radically different than they were 20 years ago,” said Al Tims, interim director of the journalism school. “The creation of a new media initiative provided us a context in which to formulate our ideas.”

A second Renaissance
Legislative support has also sparked the rebirth of three programs that were axed in 1995: photojournalism, studio broadcasting and the professional journalism master’s programs.
But these resurrections are only a gateway to a variety of proposed changes.
Nearly 60 years after its construction, officials agree that facility modifications are overdue. A good portion of the renovation money will be spent just bringing the building up to code, Tims said.
“Sixty years is a long time for a building not to undergo renovations,” Tims said. “(Its) functionality has been exhausted.”
The building lacks a sprinkler system and the walls and ceilings all contain asbestos. Without central air conditioning, unwieldy window-unit air conditioners help cool rooms and protect the extensive amounts of electronic equipment.
More visible deficiencies also reveal the building’s state of disrepair. More than two dozen obsolete IBM computers and a handful of dusty typewriters decorate the cavernous teaching assistants’ office. Hidden behind a coat rack and mail slots is room filled with dusty typewriters, battered cardboard boxes and old office furniture.
“Most of the stuff has to go, I think,” said Sanjay Asthana, a doctoral candidate and journalism TA. “We don’t have really good equipment.”
Most of the computers in the TA office do not work, Asthana said, and the computer labs in Murphy Hall have very limited hours.
The physical and programmatic changes to the school will walk hand-in-hand. While builders bring Murphy Hall up to code, administrators will bring the technology up to par with professional news organizations.
Old technology and ramshackle interiors will vanish by fall 2000. What will appear in their place is what Tims calls a convergence of academic and professional aspects of journalism.
That convergence will be embodied most significantly in the creation of the New Media Institute. The institute, which will be modelled after a similar interdisciplinary program at New York University, will unite professionals and academics in research projects.
Many aspects of the digital renovation will hit students closer to home. More than 3,000 square feet will be tentatively devoted to “flexible space,” in which collapsible walls will separate or connect labs for news reporting, television production, photography and graphic design. These labs will be equipped with the latest in digital technology.
Nearby, the Eric Severeid Information Resource Center, which will replace the Eric Severeid Library, will house digital archives, computer workstations, a variety of research databases and connections to the Associated Press wire and CBS Newspath.
“New media will be infused into every part of our curriculum,” Tims said.
Construction of a seminar and workshop area, complete with kitchen facilities, will allow professional workshops to take place in Murphy Hall. Tims said workshop attendance will also become part of the curriculum.
When an addition connected Murphy and Vincent halls in 1960, the school surrendered a plethora of offices to the math department — offices that journalism professors will reclaim after the renovation is complete.
Meanwhile, the connections between Murphy and Vincent halls will close and fire escapes will be installed, Tims said. A student lounge and several designated group work areas will also appear throughout the building.
Despite the school’s extensive makeover, associate professor Kathleen Hansen said the school’s newfound wealth is not the answer to all its problems.
“A million dollars is great, but it’s not going to do everything we need it to do to equip (the program),” Hansen said. Within the next six to eight months, she said, the school will solicit private funding to supplement its technology budget.
Tims and Hansen agreed that maintaining strong technology requires constant vigilance.
“It’s the kind of thing that is a continuing challenge,” Hansen said.

Coming full circle
William J. Murphy, former publisher of the Minneapolis Tribune, endowed the school with $350,000 upon his death in 1918, on the condition that a portion of the money be used to build a journalism facility.
Twenty years later, Murphy’s vision became a reality. Funds from the endowment, a federal grant and surplus funds from The Minnesota Daily enabled construction to start in December 1938.
Although the field was relatively undeveloped during the 1930s, what was then known as the University’s Department of Journalism had already occupied several homes on campus. Folwell and Pillsbury halls had each housed the academic program while student publications had taken up residence in Jones and Burton halls.
Upon its completion in 1940, Murphy Hall boasted an array of modern educational conveniences; a second-floor classroom and the main lecture hall boasted radio broadcasting facilities. Designers also allocated space for future television production.
The basement contained a photography lab and offices of the four students publications: the Gopher yearbook, Ski-U-Mah humor magazine, the Literary Review and The Minnesota Daily. A Minneapolis Star-Journal headline proclaimed the facility “Finest in World.”
Besides modern facilities, the department was led by some of the most renowned professionals in the industry, including Mitchell Charnley, Edwin Emery and George Hage.
The discipline and professionalism of these individuals and their colleagues are what boosted the school’s recognition in 1941, when it received full national accreditation and was renamed the School of Journalism.
“We didn’t quite appreciate it at the time, but these were people we looked up to and tried to emulate in later years,” said Vic Cohn, a 1941 journalism graduate.
This generation of professional instructors gave birth to some of the most well-known journalists in the nation: Harry Reasoner, Eric Severeid and Garrison Keillor.
Members of that leadership team led the school through the following few decades, during which time the mass communications industry and the school’s curriculum blossomed. In 1944, administrators implemented the first journalism research program in the United States. An advertising sequence was added in 1948.
Meanwhile, the program continued to blossom, with public relations, photography and television broadcast sequences added during the 1960s.
In accordance with the newly-broadened scope of mass media, the school was renamed the School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 1966.
During 1970, an all-time high of 24 faculty complemented an enrollment of more than 600.
But by the mid-1970s, the school’s strength began to wane. Enrollment reached 850, and with a gradual loss of several faculty, administrators had a difficult time meeting student needs; enrollment remains steady today.
With the advent of computer technology, the school also had difficulty acquiring and maintaining quality equipment.
Irving Fang, a professor of broadcast journalism since 1971, said he has found creative ways over the years to form adequate teaching facilities.
For many years, Fang collected castoff broadcasting equipment for instruction in a Rarig Center studio, using the money he saved to gradually purchase better apparatus.
When he had acquired enough equipment, he facilitated renovation of a third-floor classroom into a television studio and moved back to Murphy Hall in 1980. That same equipment fills the studio today.
One floor below the studio, a television editing lab is filled with Apple IIci computers and 10-year-old editing gear.
“We have practically a broadcast museum here,” Fang said.
But a new addition has helped upgrade the antiquated display. A single digital editing computer — purchased this year — graces the corner of the lab. But Fang also maintained, as do many faculty, that a facility is not what makes a program.
“It’s not all equipment, it’s teaching,” Fang said. “It’s more than just shooting. There’s structure. There’s writing.”
During the past 20 years, however, faculty numbers have decreased by almost half, leaving professors with increased workloads and larger class sizes.
“I was always doing the job of several professors,” said Dona Schwartz, an associate professor who originally headed the photography program.
In 1989 and 1994, the Accreditation Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication put the school on one-year accreditation probation. Both times accreditors applauded the school’s instruction and curriculum but criticized its low faculty numbers and budget.
Although the school regained full accreditation both times, in 1995 it came at a high cost: Studio broadcasting, photojournalism and the professional journalism master’s degree program were cut so funds could be redistributed throughout the school.
When Yudof arrived on campus in 1997, he made improved journalism and mass communications a priority.
A report released by the CLA Dean’s office revealed that, though Murphy Hall had served the school well, the building would have to be upgraded in order to support a digital technology infrastructure.
Journalism administrators’ concerns were heightened when a University-appointed task force of faculty and local professionals suggested a merger between the journalism school and the speech-communication department early this year.
CLA Dean Steven Rosenstone rejected the proposal and submitted a report to the state Legislature requesting more than $9 million for the Murphy Hall renovation. The request emphasized new media technology and an innovative journalism program.
After months of concerted lobbying by journalism faculty and students, the Legislature passed the University’s $242.8 million bonding package in April.
It was this lobbying, also, that brought together a faculty that through the years was often divided by philosophical disparities.
“When this program appeared to be threatened with extinction, this faculty forgot its differences and came together,” said professor emeritus Don Gillmor. “This unity was something to behold.”
Poised on the brink of a promising future, journalism faculty and administrators are hopeful that the impending changes will bring the journalism school back to where it used to be: one of the most cutting-edge education and research institutions in the country.
“I don’t think the school has ever been in such an advantageous position in its history,” Hansen said. “It’s just a magical moment.”