In 2014, the journalism program at SUNY New Paltz became one with the digital media department. This created what we now know as the DMJ department, which consists of three areas of study: digital media production, digital media management and journalism. Previous to this decision, all were under the umbrella of Communications and Media, and while this step towards a greater media department created an important shift, it is time for the department to re-evaluate the programs within the media umbrella, especially journalism and communications for our increasingly digital times.
The creation of a separate department for media and journalism was innovative and the effort professors made in order to achieve it is commendable. In a 2014 article in The Little Rebellion, Kelly Seiz wrote about how professors Howard Good and Gregory Bray took action so that students were able to have the classes in place today, and the constant work it took to make it happen.
The switch to have all three majors in a new department took years in the making. Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the time, Lynn Spangler, said that branching off was “something that for 20 years we [herself along with other faculty] had hoped for but for one reason or another didn’t happen.”
A main reason for the department’s formation was because of the hundreds of undergrads who were majoring under the umbrella of digital media, journalism and communications.
Now in 2018, the DMJ and communication studies departments are still some of the leading majors in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with 398 and 289 undergrad majors, respectively. While Bray noted four years ago that “students live and are going to work in a digital world, and we thought we’d get synergy by combining…the contemporary version of radio and television with the contemporary version of journalism,” the same system of courses the DMJ and communication studies departments created back in 2014 does not hold up to this day.
In the communication studies department, there are no classes that teach basic Adobe softwares, such as InDesign, Premiere and Photoshop, even in the public relations (PR) concentration where it would be imperative to know how to use these tools to make newsletters, brochures, videos and much more. In regards to journalism, there are few classes which teach students the aforementioned softwares. Digital Storytelling, Radio-Television Performance, Intro to Digital Animation and Effects, a multimedia reporting capstone and the The Little Rebellion are as far as digital content goes in the curriculum.
We at The New Paltz Oracle urge the DMJ and communication studies departments to re-evaluate the course load to include classes that teach softwares, basic video and audio editing and web design techniques, as it is pertinent for students to learn these tools in order to land internships and employment.
SUNY New Paltz enrolled 3,139 in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as of the spring 2018 semester. With a higher enrollment than any of the other Colleges and Schools within the University, SUNY New Paltz has become a leader in the Liberal Arts, competing with other top-tier SUNY schools such as SUNY Purchase and SUNY Oswego. However, these schools have outperformed New Paltz in their journalism and communication curriculum, incentivizing our departments to take action.
For example, SUNY Purchase’s communications curriculum includes a mandatory Introduction to Video Techniques and Technology Class, where students are taught video production and other technical training. This way students who aren’t digital media or journalism majors are taught basic technological functions that will help their future endeavours, inside and outside the classroom.
In addition to this, students in communications are taught PowerPoint in their public speaking class and have the opportunity to take Documentary Production and Making On-Camera Presentations, which provides “hands-on instruction and practice for conducting and recording professional presentations and interviews (still frame and in motion), and also covers essential production elements: shooting and editing, interviewing and selecting sound bites, writing and voicing.”
Although New Paltz’s public relations curriculum intersects with journalism, PR students do not have the option to take classes that deal with multimedia and digital content in general. At the moment, there is a class entitled Multimedia Editing and Layout on progress reports, but the class has not been taught in many semesters, with nothing filling its void. The class, while pertinent to PR, essentially does not exist and classes such as Arts Writing and Writing for Digital Media count as credit for that class even though neither class teaches students how to use digital equipment.
SUNY Brockport and SUNY Oswego offer students a wide variety of options in their journalism departments that showcase the numerous paths a journalist can take outside of college.
SUNY Oswego’s DMJ department has branched off into multiple fields of study: broadcasting and mass communication, communication and social interaction, cinema and screen studies and journalism. The journalism department even has subcategories for students to choose their own niche. The classes featured are: creative nonfiction writing, electronic news which focuses on broadcast, graphic design (layout/multimedia) and investigative methods. Therefore, students not only learn basic copy editing techniques, but get to learn about the journalistic methods that matter to them.
SUNY New Paltz’s journalism program do not provide other journalistic options, but rather focus solely on news. Of course, hard news is an integral part of journalism, but the school must recognize that not all students wish to pursue that journsilitic path. Some students may wish to focus on the arts, sports or editorials. Having a journalism department that only offers one form of journalism and no supplemental minors limits the program immensely and could possibly dissuade someone from joining New Paltz’s journalism program.
SUNY Brockport offers web publication and design for both journalism and public relations, as well as mobile journalism and editorial methods. Journalism majors have several concentrations to choose from: media production, multimedia, public relations and media studies, with several delving into specifics such as sports writing, tv news production, writing for social media and voice over performance. Therefore it then caters to the needs of students who want specialized classes.
With nearly 400 students in DMJ and 289 students in communications, we are denying 689 students the tools they need in order to make it in the job market. The effects of a less than journalism program has been seen in the decreasing amount of majors. In fall of 2012, there were 88 students enrolled, compared to the 59 students in spring of 2018.
Nonetheless, a concentration in public relations has steadily increased, with over 150 majors. Since many classes in this major are cross listed with classes in DMJ, they too are affected with the lack of a proper course load. With few classes being offered every semester, and having to share it with DMJ majors, many can not take the classes they wish to take every semester, resulting in stressful registration times and a worry that they might not have enough credits to finish on time.
We at The Oracle recognize that hiring more faculty with expertise on softwares could be a challenge, but as times changed four years ago, we now need that same initiative to assess what would be the best course of action for students- the classes and technical skills we need in order to be on the same plain field or better, as our competitors. As a highly regarded institution, the departments of DMJ and communications should take the concerns of students and professors into account to continue to be academically efficient, and prepare students for the work world after New Paltz.