At a time when many are revamping their skills to adapt to changes in journalism careers, Morgan State University is launching its new School of Global Journalism and Communication to meet the changing demands for those students who are preparing to enter the field.
Dean DeWayne Wickham, veteran journalist, USA Today columnist and founding member and former president of the National Association of Black Journalists is leading the charge to bring a cutting-edge international journalistic focus to the HBCU that previously offered concentrations in journalism and digital communications through its English department.
“I don’t know of another university in the U.S. with a global school of journalism,” Wickham told Diverse. “I can find schools with global programs, programs that send young people abroad, but no program with a primary focus of operations on global journalism and communications.”
Launching this fall with a ceremonial opening on Aug. 27th, students will return to a well-funded school of journalism and communication to meet the new demands through three targeted tracks:
The new program will also feature a combination of seasoned academicians alongside well respected journalists and professionals including a Pulitzer Prize winner, Fulbright Scholar and professionals from media outlets including ESPN.
“Just as we lead this country’s historically Black colleges and universities in the production of Fulbright Scholars, we want to lead the way in producing a new generation of Black journalists, who are well prepared to work in the global village the world has become,” said Morgan State President David Wilson when he introduced the new program at the National Association of Black Journalist convention a few weeks ago.
“We want to develop a new generation of strategic communicators — people who are highly skilled in the important work of communicating messages and branding organizations. We will do this through partnerships with major media organizations, worldwide public relations agencies and other HBCUs.”
According to Wilson, in 2012 Morgan ranked fifth among the nation’s higher education institutions in producing Black graduates with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and communication. “With this good starting point, I’m excited about what Morgan’s newest school can accomplish,” he told the audience of seasoned journalists.
Identifying the person to put the new school together happened after an introduction on a golf course that brought the two visionaries together — Wilson and Wickham, who was tapped to take on the role of founding dean. Wilson had approval from the Board of Regents since 2008, but was looking for the right person to bring the vision to life.
Wickham had been an outspoken advocate for preparing the next generation of journalists to look beyond the confines of the classroom and traditional journalism and to think beyond borders. The opportunity to put his vision to a test came after being tasked to put together a school of journalism with no holds barred in 10 months.
“This is my dream,” Wickham said. “For years, I’ve been talking about training the next generation. Along comes this opportunity. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”
According to Wickham, Morgan enters the ring as only the fifth HBCU with a School of Journalism along with Howard, Florida A&M, Hampton and Texas Southern universities. The concept is to merge learning with practice by offering students a seamless transition from the classroom to the real world of journalism and mass communication.
Newspapers throughout the country are scrambling to adapt to reader digital preferences and technological changes in the face of serious declines in advertising revenue as more readers get their news online using computers and smart devices. Wickham sees industry changes as an opportunity to create a school of journalism designed to meet new demands and offer students a competitive edge by incorporating a global focus.
The vision for the program is to help students graduate armed with a global perspective that will allow them to be prepared to cover news understanding the new rules governing global journalism.
Students will gain practical experience on campus through student-run television and radio stations, an online newspaper and a student-run public relations agency.
“At HBCUs, we understand that a lot of our students are busy working to earn money for tuition that they are not always able to take advantage of the unpaid internship to gain practical experience to get a job in their field,” Wickham said. “We want to make opportunities available to them on campus and elsewhere.”
“In the old curriculum, it was important to get an internship. We want students to have many opportunities to gain experience here and abroad. The ultimate goal is to make them employable.
“We are negotiating deals with major news organizations to conduct two boot camps for three days in the fall. We are looking for all kinds of ways to ensure that students are gaining experience.”
Wickham said he also wants to see more diversity among students in the program as partnerships are developed internationally.
“We want our students to be a part of the global conversation and to understand how journalism is practiced around the world and the laws that impact it,” he said. “We sent five students to Johannesburg in June, and we are now working on a reporting trip to Cuba before the end of the year.”
“In addition to global travel, we will be bringing in people from abroad, as well as using technology such as Skype to develop projects with journalists in other countries.”
Prior to coming to Morgan State University, Wickham was a scholar-in-residence and distinguished professor of journalism at Delaware State University, distinguished visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania and distinguished professor of journalism and chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at North Carolina A&T State University.
Wickham began his journalism career in 1973, during the Watergate scandal that forced the resignation of President Richard Nixon. With nearly four decades as a journalist under his belt, he has reported on eight U.S. presidents, dined with Fidel Castro in Havana, accompanied Jean Bertrand Aristide on his return to Haiti from exile, traveled with Nelson Mandela on his eight-city tour of the U.S. following his release from a South African prison and followed President Barack Obama to Paris for his historic campaign trip to the French capital.
He is the author of four books and has a journalism career that has included work for U.S. News & World Report, The Baltimore Sun, WBAL-TV, CBS News, BET and USA Today, where his syndicated column has appeared since 1985. Wickham recently received the 2012 NABJ Lifetime Achievement Award.