Dr. Lee B. Becker (left), director of the Cox International Center at the University of Georgia, and Dr. Debao Xiang (right), associate professor at the School of International Journalism at Shanghai International Studies University, attending the IAMCR 2014 conference in Hyderabad, India.

Curricular Reform Difficult In Journalism And Mass Communication Education, Research Team Tells International Scholars at Conference In India

Large-scale curricular reform seems to be a slow and difficult process within journalism and mass communication education, even in the face of a rapidly changing media environment, a research team from the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama told a gathering of experts at a conference in Hyderabad, India, in July.

“Internal and external factors, such as faculty resistance to new curricular offerings, budget constraints and adoption of accreditation standards, have made some programs less successful in accommodating the demands of external change than others,” the researchers said.

The research team consisted of Dr. Lee B. Becker, Dr C. Ann Hollifield and Dr. Tudor Vlad from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia and Dr. Wilson Lowrey from the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama.

The researchers used data from the Annual Survey of Journalism & Mass Communication Enrollments, conducted in the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia. Dr. Becker is director and Dr. Vlad is associate director of the Cox Center, a unit of the Grady College.

The paper focused on innovation in journalism and mass communication education in the United States, which the researchers argued was an appropriate venue for study of change in communication education generally because of the long tradition of journalism and mass communication education in the country, because of the scope of the higher educational system, and because of the dramatic changes taking place in the journalism and mass communication labor market in that country.

The researchers differentiated between two types of innovation.

The first they identified as administrative innovation, which involves organizational structure and administrative processes and is directly related to the management of work. The second they called product innovation, which pertains to products, services and production process technology and is related to daily work activities and the resulting products and processes.

The researchers found that journalism and mass communication programs accredited by the U.S. Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and units with graduate degrees tended to be less innovative in terms of organizational structure, an example of administrative innovation, but they are more innovative regarding faculty with digital media skills, an example of product innovation.

Journalism and mass communication programs that report directly to the university central administration and programs with a research and graduate mission are more innovative in hiring faculty and in adding new media courses to their curricula (organizational innovation), but they are less likely to bring changes to their sequence structure (product innovation).

The researchers said it was impossible to sort out the causal forces producing innovation because many of the characteristics of schools are highly correlated. For example, accredited programs somewhat are more likely to be in public institutions.

The researchers gave their presentation to the Journalism Research and Education section of the International Association for Media and Communication Research, which met at the International Convention Center in Hyderabad.

About 30 researchers attended the session in which Drs. Becker and Hollifield presented the research findings for the team.

More than 800 delegates from more than 90 countries around the world attended the conference.

Dr. Hollified is head of the Telecommunications Department at the University of Georgia. Dr. Lowrey is chair of the Department of Journalism at the University of Alabama.

Dr. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru from the Advertising and Public Relations Department at the University of Georgia also attended the conference and presented papers on her work on telenovelas and the political situation in Venezuela, her native country.

Dr. Usha Raman, who earned her master’s degree and doctorate from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, was one of the co-convenors of the conference. She is a faculty member at the University of Hyderabad. She is the head of the Department of Communication at the University of Hyderabad.

A copy of the paper presented by Drs. Becker, Hollifield, Lowrey and Vlad, titled “Predictors of Technical and Administrative Innovation In Professional Communication Education At Institutions of Higher Education,” is available here.