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Friday, April 19, 2024 — Houston, TX

Rice needs a journalism program

12/1/15 5:09pm

At Rice we pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of various fields and offering our students a diverse and talented community.  Rice’s undergraduate architecture program is ranked third in the country according to Architectural Record’s 2015 rankings. According to US News and World Report’s 2015 national rankings, many of our engineering disciplines are ranked in the top 20 and as an undergraduate institution we are ranked 18th. The process of adding diversity and talent to our community is ongoing, and I believe the next step in that process is to create a school of or program in journalism. 

As the reach of mass media becomes increasingly global, journalists are among the greatest influencers of the tides of change, and they have a responsibility to present unbiased information to the electorate. The cover stories of the New York Times and the main news story on NBC Nightly News dictate political agendas and public feelings regarding issues of global importance. Investigative journalism has ruined presidencies and celebrities’ careers. As journalism permeates every hour of our lives, the responsibility of journalists to report information accurately and illuminate important issues is more crucial than ever. As such, I believe that Rice students should have a greater opportunity to pursue careers in journalism. 

Rice’s status as one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country positions it to attract talented students interested in journalism and equip them with the skills to become leaders in the field. Rice has produced many great businessmen, lawyers, politicians and engineers, and has already graduated many accomplished journalists, such as David Rhodes, president of CBS News. If the university were to invest in developing either a school of journalism or a communications and journalism major, it would expand the talent of our student body and mold alumni who will have a positive impact on a potentially global level. The resources available to Rice would make this a feasible investment that would pay long-term dividends. 

In addition to the potential for the program as a major by itself, a school of journalism would allow students from all majors to develop skills crucial in almost all career fields. Scientific, engineering and policy reporting are potential interdisciplinary minors or classes that would add to the opportunities available to Rice students. Communication with media is a crucial aspect of the lives of many successful businessmen, professors and researchers. Interdisciplinary coursework in journalism and communications would equip students from all majors with the skills necessary to articulate their achievements and discoveries to the public and news sources. This would make the creation of a journalism program less costly as many current professors could teach journalism courses in addition to those hired specifically to teach within the major or school of journalism. Implementing the program would not require construction of new buildings specifically for journalism, though a broadcast studio would benefit those students studying broadcast journalism and provide them with invaluable experiential learning opportunities. The Thresher, KTRU and RVP would allow journalism students to develop their skills in real world settings. These organizations also illustrate that many students on campus are already interested in various forms of journalism, and their experience would be greatly enhanced by the availability of coursework in their area of interest. 

The main risk of creating a school of journalism would be the direct effect it could have on making Rice a more pre-professional environment. However, I disagree with this sentiment because the addition of journalism and communications classes would add to the breadth of our curriculum, allowing many students to explore for the first time into a completely foreign field or provide some students further education in a topic they are already passionate about. Creating opportunities for our students to learn and test new subjects will never be pre-professional as long as the students at Rice and the culture of the campus doesn’t change. Many peer institutions already have majors or schools in communications and journalism, such as the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication or New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. However, to maintain the intellectualism that defines a Rice undergraduate experience we should create the program in a manner unique to our school and student body. This will be accomplished by maintaining the admissions practices that admit students who are both ambitious and intellectually curious. I believe that the two qualities are not mutually exclusive and that these changes will add to everyone’s Rice experience. 

Rice must continue to expand its community and curriculum to maintain our spirit of intellectual inquiry and our reputation of educational opportunity. Through the creation of a major or school of journalism, Rice would take a significant step in building a diversity of talents in our student body and presenting our students with additional opportunities to learn and develop valuable skills that will serve them for the rest of their professional careers. Rice should make this investment. It will have a positive impact on our community for the foreseeable future. 

Maurice Frediere is a Duncan College freshman

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