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Staff Editorial: Macalester, journalism lose in World Press Institute departure

By The Mac Weekly Staff

If the study and practice of journalism at Macalester College had a theme song, it would be “Another One Bites the Dust.”Last year, we lamented the announcement of the one-year suspension of the World Press Institute at Macalester College. Now the Institute, an international nonprofit organization that brought journalists from around the world together to learn about the roles and responsibilities of a free press, is leaving Macalester for good, re-opening its doors as a completely independent entity.

In 1961, noted journalist Harry Morgan, seeking to increase international circulation of ideas about free press during the tension of the Cold War, persuaded Readers Digest founder and Macalester champion DeWitt Wallace to establish the Institute at Macalester. Since then, Institute Fellows have shared their work and experiences in presentations open to the public, including to students with an interest in journalism and the free press.

We applaud the diligence of the Institute’s staff and board in surviving the disappearance of sponsorship from foundations, media companies and navigating the college’s unwillingness to provide temporary support. Still, from our perspective as student journalists at Macalester, we are sad to see one more opportunity to study journalism leave this campus.

Just four years ago, we saw the end of independent operations for Macalester’s Communication Studies Department, which effectively grounded the study of print journalism in the study of many forms of mass media. Though Communication Studies courses and faculty were folded into such departments as Humanities, Media, and Cultural Studies and Political Science, the change was without a doubt a blow to studying journalism at Macalester.

We’re not saying anybody’s hostile to journalism.

But consider: The Mac Weekly was recently forced to reduce the number of copies per week to 1,400, and submissions to the opinion section are already tapering off. In past campus debate, journalism has been tagged too “vocational,” tantamount to the kiss of death at the “liberal arts college’s liberal arts college” that Macalester has become. It’s clear that journalism is losing traction as one of Macalester’s competing priorities.

In light of Macalester’s self-professed values, this is both unfortunate and ironic. As we’re building and fundraising for a new institute that aims to promote global citizenship, an institute already doing so has slipped through our fingers.

The opinions expressed above are those of The Mac Weekly, as determined by the staff. The perspectives are not representative of Macalester College.

February 22, 2008

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