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Home > Publications > Quill > Convention sessions outline moving from newsroom to classroom


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Friday, October 2, 2009
Convention sessions outline moving from newsroom to classroom

By George L. Daniels

Even as they received advice for moving from the newsroom to the classroom at the 2009 SPJ Convention, a new study suggests journalists may have an even harder time making that happen.

Often, professional journalists begin teaching part-time or as adjunct faculty. But the latest data on journalism faculty hiring show the number of those positions continued to decline in 2008 — 4,979, down from 5,341 a year earlier.

The only positive news in the journalism faculty hiring picture in the 2008 Annual Survey of Journalism and Mass Communication Enrollments was the fact that full-time faculty hiring increased slightly, even though 40 percent of J-schools were under some type of hiring freeze. The survey was released by the University of Georgia’s James Cox Center for Mass Communication Training and Research

The new data on journalism faculty hiring came out just three weeks before two sessions focused on making the transition from full-time journalism to academe were held at the 2009 SPJ Convention in Indianapolis.

“I don’t want to write for academic journals; I have 2,000-plus bylines,” said Bonnie Stewart, an assistant professor at West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism. Stewart, a member of SPJ’s Journalism Education Committee, organized the session “Experience Counts: Become a Professor Without a Ph.D.”

Stewart and Toni Locy, who holds the Reynolds Professorship in Legal Reporting at Washington & Lee University, told stories of transitioning to the classroom after decades working as investigative reporters at some of the nation’s best newspapers and magazines.

With a tenure-track position, Stewart is expected to maintain an aggressive publication record in order to keep her spot on the faculty and be promoted from assistant to associate professor. She told a roomful of journalists, some of whom had already made the shift to teaching, about her work strategy for completing a book project based on years of reporting about West Virginia coal miners.

Locy, who prior to her current position held an endowed professorship at West Virginia University, gave advice about how to teach without being on the tenure track.

“I’m not a big fan of tenure. I like to move around; tenure doesn’t appeal to me,” Locy said. “I don’t like people telling me to jump through hoops.”

The advice from Stewart and Locy is supported by data from the 2008 University of Georgia survey, which showed the primary criteria for faculty promotion as “publication in refereed journals.” J-school administrators surveyed ranked it higher than even student evaluations of teaching.

Along with Stewart and Locy’s session, a panel discussion titled “From the Newsroom to the Classroom: What’s the Story” was also part of the convention program. In the session, J-school faculty and administrators encouraged attendees to go beyond their “war stories” in breaking into the teaching profession.

Read an executive summary of the 2008 Annual Survey of Journalism and Mass Communication Enrollments at the survey’s Web site: www.grady.uga.edu/annualsurveys.

The full study will be published in an upcoming issue of Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, an academic journal published by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

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