Organizational Constraints on Curricular Adaptation in U.S. Journalism and Mass Communication Education


Wilson Lowrey, Lee B. Becker and Tudor Vlad


In a real sense, the university schools and departments offering journalism and mass communication currricula face the same challenge as the legacy media organizations. They must adapt existing resources and structures to a rapidly changing landscape. The record of these academic institutions in adapting to change is not impressive. The topic of industrial change and the required convergence of skills and knowledge areas were prominent in media circles in the early and mid 2000s. A 2004 study showed that while the concept of news industry convergence was much on the minds of school administrators and faculty in the U.S., movement toward converged knowledge areas and curricular tracks was slow and cautious. This paper expands that earlier work by examining data from a census of U.S. journalism and mass communication programs conducted in academic year 2009-2010. The study draws on institutional theory, which predicts that organizations such as universities often adopt only skin-deep change so they may gain public legitimacy even as they hold on to traditional core routines and structures that are in accord with the demands of the organization's wider institutional environment. The paper finds results that are consistent with that exception.

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