By Denton Josey, Features Editor
As students take finals next week, the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication will move back into the Don Morris Building after being displaced since May.
During the $1.1 million renovations, which included funds for repurposing space to the relocated interior design department, the JMC faculty taught classes in various buildings on campus and worked out of temporary office spaces in three different buildings.
Dr. Cheryl Bacon, professor and chair of the department of journalism and mass communication, said the renovations fit better with a curriculum geared toward preparing students for professional journalism.
“The primary purpose of the renovation was to allow construction of the converged media newsroom. We have had a vision for a converged media space for a long time – we actually worked on funding for seven years,” Bacon said.
At the forefront of the renovations is a new media room for converged media. The new room will have video editing stations, television screens for news and an audio recording room with podcasting capabilities. Some elements of the room will be in place by the end of the semester, such as furniture and flat screen monitors, but new computers will not be installed until the summer.
“It is a rethinking of our student media operations,” said Kenneth Pybus, assistant professor of journalism and mass communication. “We need to be in the position to distribute news and teach students to distribute news in the way that the industry is going.”
In the past, the Optimist, the Prickly Pear and other student media productions were separate, but in the new converged media room they will all be together. Pybus said that as a graduate of the department, he is excited to see the department adapting to changes in the professional journalism world.
“One of the overarching philosophies of the newsroom is we’re all together in gathering news with different methods of distribution,” Pybus said.
Bacon said the reason the department created a converged media room is because in the professional environment, media professionals increasingly have to have skills to allow them to function in more than just one traditional medium.
“I think it is the most exciting and dramatic thing that we have been able to do for our students since we moved into the Don Morris center in the late 1970s,” Bacon said. “It really is a state-of-the-art student media space.”
After the renovations, all faculty offices and classrooms will be located on the third floor, while the second floor will house the student media productions. Cade White, instructor of journalism and mass communication, said the new locations help students and faculty alike.
“All of the faculty offices are on the third floor, they are no longer separated and divided by floors,” White said. “When the faculty is able to communicate and cooperate easier, that’ll only make it better for students.”
White said that before the renovations the facilities were designed from a professional journalism paradigm that wasn’t relevant anymore.
“News outlets around the world are developing into a new converged medium that includes components for print, broadcast and radio,” he said.
“So far, in our student media, we’ve been making efforts to provide the students with collaboration opportunities, for broadcast and print student media to work together,” White said.
Another addition to the department is a student, faculty and staff commons area for eating and socializing.
“One of the strengths of the program since I’ve been alive has been that it incorporates student media productions in the classroom,” Pybus said. “There’s no lessening of that commitment, but now there’s a greater commitment to including all of the outlets.”