I got back not long ago from a visit to a public university where I was asked to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the journalism program.
The program was a lot like ours at USU. There was a premajor core for students who were trying to get into the program. Then the students had to declare which sequence they wanted to go into.
The program had a relatively small number of faculty, but it was popular with students and there was good demand for classes. The faculty were hard working and dedicated to education.
The big difference?
This other program had a nice, private nest egg. A donor had given a large donation, and the university was able to use the interest off that account to pay for new hardware and software, as well as the salary of a brilliant professional who could teach students how to use the new toys. That donation made a big difference at that university.
Oh, for a friend like that!
It amazes me sometimes how closing the gap between adequate and good, or between good and great, can come down to one or two people who make a difference with private financial donations, or one or two people who make a difference in instruction or administration.
Typical public universities are getting only a fraction -- less than a quarter -- of their operating money from tax dollars. Where does the rest come from? Government grants, investments, and, to borrow a phrase from PBS, people like you.
The hard sciences have an advantage in bringing in a lot of external money. Soft sciences and liberal arts struggle a bit. And then there's journalism. Many journalism programs go begging. Why should it be a hard sell to get people to invest in good journalism? I know journalism has its problems -- what part of society doesn't? -- but I cannot imagine that the world would be better if journalism schools were allowed to wither from neglect.
J-schools now, more than ever, must teach the three R's of journalism -- readin', ritin', and revenue.