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Meyer, Bentley: AEJMC Should Keep Newspaper Division Name

Earlier I promised to keep tabs on the listserv discussion about whether the “Newspaper Division” in the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) should change its name. Here are excellent reactions from both Clyde Bentley, journalism professor at the University of Missouri, and Phil Meyer, author of the Vanishing Newspaper, to Susan Keith’s points for making a change.

First here is Meyer, who is also Professor Emeritus, School of Journalism and Mass Communication at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

I’ve been traveling and haven’t had time to read all the posts, but here’s my take. Don’t do it!

We now have a historic opportunity. For decades, the newspaper industry ignored and/or belittled us. It was fat, happy, and prosperous and didn’t need research. Now it is scared and eager to learn. And we and our journal can be just the help it needs. Plus the research questions are more interesting than ever now that the newspaper business is no longer in a steady state.

Trust me, what comes out of all the turmoil will still be called a newspaper., the St. Louis Beacon, Chi-Town Daily News are all called newspapers even though their only distribution is online. The newspaper of the future might appear on Roger Fidler’s tablet, on electronic paper, on old-fashioned wood pulp, or online. But it will still be a newspaper, and it will have learned to focus on the one thing it does best which is provide local public affairs coverage to validate and enable civic discussion.

The name has too much history, too much significance to abandon just when the business is in trouble. Let’s not walk away. We need to pitch in and help the owners and managers understand the fix they are in and to evaluate the outcomes of all the natural experiments that are starting to pop up. The name “newspaper division” need not constrain us as we explore all the permutations of the new technology. But it can help us stay grounded in our original purpose as we evaluate the myriad

Now here is Bentley:

New name for newspaper division: don’t do it!

As a former Newspaper Division head, I agree with Phil and many others that we should not rush to a name change. The name “newspaper” is not the challenge. The definition of “newspaper” is.

I would agree to a divisional name change if we will not accept papers or panels dealing with online issues, multi-media efforts, video, photography or even advertising. Sure, all of those are claimed by other divisions. But the modern newspaper is the only place where they all come together.

“Newspaper” today means the baseline for journalism. This is the news organization that delivers the comprehensive package on short notice, day after day. Unlike most “new” media, it serves a well-defined geographic/socioeconomic audience. It comes in all sizes, from megosaurus to minimytus and has helped develop technology from quill pens to plasma screens. It uses every communications medium it can, it supports a vital local commercial community, it transforms ideas into history like nothing else, it generally attracts more eyeballs-per-edition/product in individual markets than anyone else — and it makes a profit. Damn, that’s not bad for a corpse.

I think it is too early to say that either the newspaper and its division are dead. Both are still evolving. Give it some time before abandoning a name that has served well through several molts. But during that time open our academic eyes to what the concept of “newspaper” does and can imply. There is much more there than dead trees.

Clyde Bentley
Missouri School of Journalism
Newspaper Division Head 2002-2003

One Response to “Meyer, Bentley: AEJMC Should Keep Newspaper Division Name”

  1. Frederic Says:

    Great One…

    I must say, its worth it! My link! ,many Thanks….