Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Century Of Innovation

This year, the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication celebrates its 100th anniversary. While the milestone is noteworthy, and certainly an acknowledgement of consistency over the past century, the key watchword in the school over the years -- as well as the field of journalism -- has been “change.”

When UO SOJC became a full-fledged entity of its own in 1916, journalism in America consisted of newspapers and magazines. Prince Lucien Campbell, president of UO in those days, hired Eric W. Allen, a reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, as the school’s first dean: it would be a position he would hold for nearly 30 years.

During his tenure, the face of journalism would continue to change. By the 1930s, the school had added courses in advertising. In the 1950s, course offerings expanded to include broadcast news writing and facilities for both radio and television production, and the school added courses in the relatively new field of public relations.

Allen had witnessed the evolution of journalism from a rather rote, skills-based practice to a profession that required knowledge that could only be obtained from a well-rounded education. In establishing standards for the growing field of journalism education, he required students to take the majority of coursework outside their major.

Over the past century, graduates have included award-winning journalists, radio and television producers, advertising executives, public relations counselors, politicians and legislators, novelists, jurists and many more who have excelled in other professional disciplines, including journalism education.

My roots at UO SOJC run deep. Arriving at Allen Hall in the early 70s, my senior year marked the 100th anniversary of the University of Oregon and the 60th anniversary of the SOJC. During my undergraduate days, the Oregon Daily Emerald evolved from an entity of the SOJC into an independent newspaper.

My mentors, to whom I am forever grateful, featured the likes of Ken Metzler, Dean Rea, Roy Paul Nelson, Jack Ewan and Duncan McDonald, among others. In those days, we banged out copy on manual Underwood typewriters in the writing labs and developed film in the Allen Hall darkroom to print photographs for publication.

In 1986, during the 70th anniversary of the SOJC, I was hired as an adjunct instructor teaching public relations classes. Today, we have a thoroughly renovated Allen Hall with digital labs, enhanced and expanded opportunities for experiential learning and the George S. Turnbull Center in Portland, a major media market.

What will the next 100 years hold for the UO SOJC? More change, to be sure, but also an unwavering commitment to provide a “community of media scholars and professionals dedicated to teaching, research and creative projects that champion freedom of expression, dialogue and democracy in service to future generations.”