Journalism school at USM adapts to industry changes

4. února 2013 v 4:28 |  solar power systems
The University of Southern Mississippi's College Hall is a historic preservation with modern amenities, combining 10-foot tall windows from the original 1912 structure with LED lighting and other energy-efficient upgrades.

The building's future tenant, the Southern Miss School of Mass Communication and Journalism, also plans to meld the new with the old, as traditional media encounters 21st century challenges.

"We know that it's going to migrate into a digital format," said the school's director, Chris Campbell. "The technology is changing. The business model is changing. I think this generation of students is ultimately going to figure out how it's all going to work."

That's the hope of Southern Miss student Sarah Rogers, a junior broadcast journalism major, who said she switched from news editorial journalism in fall 2011 because she liked talk radio's "personal touch."

She believes there will be an industry awaiting her when she graduates. "Journalism is not going away," she said. "I think that we can learn to adapt with it and keep it going strong."

It's also the hope of "mass comm" officials, who are enacting a two-part plan to increase the school's visibility and student quality.

The restoration of the historic building is nearly complete, with folks scheduled to move into classrooms, offices and studios in August.

Work began in 2011 on College Hall, the first academic building on the Southern Miss campus. It was paid for with $6.3 million left over from bond bills dating to 2002.

Now the project moves into its second phase. The university will kick off a fundraising campaign for the School of Mass Communication and Journalism on Friday, designed to raise money to equip the building as well as fund endowments for professorships and student scholarships.

Endowed scholarships will help attract better students. "We expect to raise the bar in terms of the students," Campbell said.

Meanwhile, the school's TV studio, radio station and digital photo labs all sorely require technology upgrades - the radio station soundboards date from the 1970s, for example.

Campbell said new equipment will cost at least hundreds of thousands of dollars, possibly more. There is no set goal on the amount the campaign hopes to raise."It will depend on what we can get," he said.

Vice President for Advancement Bob Pierce hopes the time is ripe for this campaign, after a difficult last half of 2012 that saw fundraising efforts stumble.

"You cannot separate the environment for raising money for this kind of initiative from the overall fundraising environment for the university," he explained.

He points to the absence of a permanent president, with the resignation of Martha Saunders in April, and a winless football season as significant factors in the decline.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel with Rodney Bennett, the University of Georgia's vice president of student affairs, expected to be named president on Thursday. "It's a more promising environment for fundraising in 2013," he said.

Campbell believes he has a product to sell, despite the much-discussed nationwide problems affecting the newspaper industry. The school has 580 undergraduate students and 80 graduate students, the most it has ever had.

An infusion of 140 to 150 recording industry production majors with the introduction of the degree in 2010 is one factor for the increase.

But Campbell said that even without those new bodies, the number of majors in the school has swelled about 10 percent over five years ago.

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