The outreach panel for the Minorities and Communication Division is talking with heads of journalism and mass communication programs at historically black colleges and universities as well as Hispanic-serving institutions in order to hear their concerns and ideas about the professional and academic sides of our field plus encourage them to get active in MAC.
I began this initiative with the approval of Division Chairwoman Frances-Ward Johnson and in tandem with my work on the Commission on the Status of Minorities, which I head for two years starting this fall.
With these HBCU officials, I’m probing their thoughts on news coverage of the historically underrepresented, job opportunities for undergraduate degree-holders, employment promotion in the news industry, and issues in academia for minority professors. I’m finishing with that group of about 30 and am about to tap chairs of Hispanic-serving institutions for their insights.
HBCUs are an often-overlooked piece of the higher-education puzzle for many Americans. Nearly a third of a million students populate the nation’s 100 historically black colleges and universities, which are evenly split between public and private spheres. Defined by the U.S. Department of Education as having started prior to 1964 and serving primarily African-American students, they for many years have played a vital role in black intellectual life.
I’ve already had several intriguing conversations with HBCU chairs, such as Wanda Lloyd, head of the Savannah State program and a longtime leader in the Gannett chain. She sees promotion of minorities as a prime issue in the news profession. Her research indicates fewer African-Americans and others are moving up the journalism ladder, and she is working hard to correct that, just as she did in top leadership of newspapers in Montgomery, Alabama, and Greenville, South Carolina.
Ishmail Conway at Virginia State University believes some of the problem results from a lack of intercultural awareness. He thinks there should be courses making sure students have exposure to diverse populations’ histories and perspectives, including the local school and surrounding community cultures.
Conway also wants there to be a very practical thrust to undergraduate journalism & mass communication programs at HBCUs. “I have people come here to study who are just sitting around at big schools, and when they get here, I get ‘em involved,” he says. He’s proud VSU’s video equipment is all-HD, along with touting other improvements his program’s made.
Alan Crump, assistant chairman of Xavier University of Louisiana’s program, agrees giving students opportunities is important. “We have our own media outlets, so the education is not just in classrooms, and students get real-life experiences,” he says. He sees one major challenge as getting undergraduates to move past thinking like media consumers and giving them the outlook of media producers.
Having flexibility is important for undergrads, says Jerry Domatub, interim chairman of Alcorn State’s program. He encourages students to get relevant minors along with studying in their major field of journalism or mass communication so they have a workable backup plan for post-graduation employment.
We at MAC salute HBCU programs and look forward to getting more insights from their leaders as well as their counterparts at HSIs.
Written by the Rev. Kyle Huckins, Ph.D., Azusa Pacific University, MAC Second Vice Head