CORVALLIS - It has been 10 years since Oregon State University announced it was closing its popular journalism and broadcast media programs in the wake of budget cuts triggered by a property tax relief initiative called Ballot Measure 5.
For years, OSU officials have sought to resurrect those programs, while at the same time acknowledging that the Internet and technology have vastly changed the world of mass media.
This fall, Oregon State will formally unveil its New Media Communication program under newly hired director Joel Thierstein. The program actually began a few years ago when students could get minors in one of three strands: print media, telemedia, and multimedia. More than 120 students flocked to the program and the demand for more classes --- and majors --- is expected to intensify.
"It was a difficult move (to eliminate journalism) at the time and for the past several years, there has been a group of faculty, alumni and professional journalists seeking to bring the program back in some form," said Kay Schaffer, dean of the OSU College of Liberal Arts.
"As it turns out, it was probably a good thing to be without a journalism program for a few years because it gave us an opportunity to start from scratch," she added. "We have been able to begin building a program that matches the way the field has evolved."
Unlike the former journalism program, OSU's New Media Communication program will begin as a hybrid effort taught by faculty in speech communication, English, computer science and art, though it likely will evolve into a department within a few years, Schaffer said. The marriage of resources between the colleges of Engineering and Liberal Arts is particularly intriguing, she added, and reflects what the program is trying to accomplish.
"Our graduates will have a combination of communication skills and technical know-how that should make them highly marketable," Schaffer said. "Add in the fact that each student must seek out and complete an off-campus internship, and you have a nice combination of experience and flexibility."
Developing partnerships with business, crafting the curriculum, and building the program into a full major are the main goals of Thierstein. The director of telecommunications at Baylor University, Thierstein was highly recommended for the job by students, faculty, and a panel of journalists who participated in the process.
He specializes in new communication and information technologies, communication law and policy, media programming and management, and broadcast media. Thierstein has worked professionally in radio and television, and been on the faculties of Syracuse University, Purdue University, and Southern Illinois University, as well as Baylor.
A 1983 graduate of Syracuse, Thierstein also has a master's degree, law degree, and Ph.D. from that institution.
Schaffer said OSU's New Media Communication program will not only be popular with students, it will fill a void in Oregon and nationally. "Rather than being duplicative, this program is quite compatible with what the University of Oregon offers in its more traditional journalism program," Schaffer said. "It also dovetails nicely with OSU's strengths in the high tech field, natural resources and other areas."
Oregon State expects student interest in the new program to be high. More than 300 students majored in journalism and broadcast media in the early 1990s, and hundreds more non-majors took classes. Skyrocketing interest in the Internet, multimedia and new communication technologies should continue that interest.
Jim Folts, chair of the Department of Art, is the last surviving journalism professor still on the OSU faculty. A pioneer in the use of computer technology for photographs, he said he welcomes the program's new emphasis.
"It was a sad day when journalism shut its doors, but I firmly believe that this new program takes into account profound changes in the information industry over the past decade," Folts said. "We want to prepare students not just for their first job, but for leadership positions 20 years from now."