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CU Denver lacks a journalism program, and that’s a problem

The Communication Department is the closest
CU comes to a journalism program.
Illustration: Alex Stallsworth · The Sentry

the program is more relevant than ever before

Universities of the United States have a problem: the death of the “working-class” journalist in America seems to have prompted, concurrently, the loss of journalism programs in American universities. Seeing as reliable journalism is so integral to values held dearly in the United States, it seems odd that so many are willing to dismiss the industry as a bygone memory of days before “fake news” and social media journalism. 

CU Denver holds no home for any type of journalism program. But journalism schools (also known as J-schools) do have a storied history, and medium-sized universities like CU Denver would be hard-pressed to ignore the detriments of what journalism schools once were: costly bastions of journalistic training that distanced students from the insights of the universities they attended; a kind of academic counterculture that focused heavily on the “nuts and bolts” of journalism rather than the economic, political, and cultural perspectives that young journalists need today. 

Though, overall, J-schools appear to be turning things around. Journalism students at Northwestern are collaborating with engineering professors to design tech-driven media, and students at Columbia are trailblazing new paths in critical journalism, to name a few.  

Journalistic work is not so cut and dried as it once was. Contemporary news powerhouses like Vox and Vice strive to produce multimedia-type journalism, spanning everything from restaurant reviews and artist profiles to international conflicts and global health crises. Students must be versatile, and willing to employ their skills covering a variety of topics if they hope to be employable. This reality appears to have struck a chord with many universities involved in the journalism world, and academic philosophy will continue to shift rapidly in order to remain relevant. 

Realistically, CU Denver can’t hope to financially muster a program to the caliber of Columbia or Northwestern. A communications department is already well-established at CU Denver and it is an excellent program, if a bit broad. And broad can be unnerving for students, especially as a career path into journalism becomes increasingly chaotic. 

The issue of a broad study in communications begins with a lack of journalism-specific programs offered at CU Denver. There are existing courses that come close; fundamentals of communication and introduction of media studies would be helpful to any young journalist. Other courses seem less journalism-specific, such as health communication. Of course, the major can still lead to a career in journalism, but the wide-ranging nature of communications may fail to prepare students in areas like long form writing and foreign reporting. 

A new J-school at CU Denver shouldn’t be out of the question. A strong, dedicated journalism program can help young reporters to strengthen their interpersonal skills while challenging their own prejudices. A dedicated program for young journalists to find their niche would be ideal, but a collaboration with CU Denver’s communication department seems more attainable. Aspiring journalists know the business they’re getting into, and a journalism program could mean being that much more prepared when it comes time to find that first job. 

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