Cicchino: Journalism department at Rowan is flawed

Brooks: The president’s comments about the media do affect the journalism department. (Photo from

There are a fresh crop of seniors that will be graduating in about two weeks, so it’s time to reflect on the past few years and get nice and introspective.

Well, that would be the case if some of us had not been taught the same thing for the past couple of years.

As a transfer student, I can’t speak for the students that have been at Rowan since their freshman year, but I can easily say that I learned more about journalism at community college than I did here in Glassboro.

First off, the whole system is flawed.

Somehow, the journalism department has managed to take a semester’s worth of needed information and stretch it to last multiple years.

There really is not a difference between News Writing I and News Writing II. The same can be said for Sports Journalism I and Sports Journalism II. The most important journalism classes offered at Rowan are Media Ethics and Journalism Practices and Principles. Throw in Media Law and the aforementioned News I and Sports I class, and you have the semester’s worth of basic knowledge that you need.

The whole grading process is also messed up.

In the real world, a writer will report on a story, write it up and pass it along to an editor. The editor will edit the story and pass it back to the writer if changes need to be made.

However, in college – or at least at Rowan – things are handled much differently. You don’t have a chance to get that crucial feedback that will improve the story. Once you hand in the paper, you’re getting that thing graded.

While other students in different programs are getting “real-world experience,” it seems like the ones in this major are getting treated like they’re in high school.

To go along with that, the way that classes are taught is not really realistic either.

Only one professor that I’ve had has told the class that they are better suited learning outside of the classroom. He said that that is the best experience the students could get. We would be kept in class long enough to know what the assignment for the week was before being dismissed to work on it.

Meanwhile, other professors will keep students in a copy editing class for the full time while talking about how bringing baked goods into a newsroom will keep the staff happy.

While the upperclassmen toil away in a News Writing II class, learning the same thing they heard in News I, freshmen are taking general education classes.

How is this beneficial to the young students?

I was a member of The Whit staff this year. They needed people to write. How is a freshman expected to be able to come in and contribute to something like The Whit if they have to wait to take journalism classes?

It just seems backwards. Professors tell students to get involved in the school newspaper, but for the most part, these students do not know how to write.

To prove that it isn’t just the early goings of the major that are flawed, let’s discuss Senior Seminar.

The class is a requirement for seniors. This semester is online, which is a stupid idea anyway. Senior Seminar is a discussion class. How can students have an actual discussion through a computer screen?

However, that’s not the point.

The real problem is that the work done in the class is nonsense.

The most recent assignment called for an 1,800 word paper about a desired work place. That followed a 1,500 word profile about a journalist. Instead of writing these useless papers, why not make the class revolve around one big investigative piece? Give the student the semester to find a scoop and make it into a comprehensive story. That would be more valuable than telling the professor who Matt Miller of Bleacher Report is.

The field of journalism is one that is changing. The written side of it is going away and a modern era is being ushered in. It’s time for the way that classes are taught in the journalism department to follow suit.

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  1. I’m a transfer student that went into the journalism department two years ago. I went into the department interested in journalism but was terrified of talking to people and knew nothing. I just knew I was most interested in writing and the news and decided on that after I left community college (getting a liberal arts degree). My professors pushed me to go outside of my comfort zone, but it is essential to do things to help yourself. You want somebody to read over your article before you turn it in? Ask them to give you feedback! You don’t think that a class is the best it could be? Ask for help! You’re a freshman and want to learn how to write? Ask! For! Help! Professors aren’t going to drag you out of your room and beg you to let them help you. Visit your professor and tell them your concerns in a constructive way. They are very knowledgable and do their best to help. I haven’t ever been too intimidated by a professor to ask for help and I genuinely believe that they care. That’s asking a lot in college today.

    I’ve learned something new in every class and I wouldn’t be able to cram all of that into one semester. I learned how to walk up to people and ask questions without being nervous. I went from being nervous for a week in advance of a phone interview for Professor Hausman’s research paper to being able to talk to others with ease. I went from knowing nothing about journalism to being confident in the subject. I learned about the history of journalism. I learned everything I needed to improve my writing. My photojournalism class with Professor Hawk renewed my passion for photography. Professor Quigley plopped us onto the street and made us interview people even though everybody in my class groaned about it and that pushed me in a good way. Media Law got me interested in law and made me think about going to law school in the future. I never blamed anybody else for the things that I didn’t do, that was always on me if I didn’t reach out. I found value in all of my classes and I’m sorry you didn’t. Yes, there’s not that much of a difference between News I and News II, but I did not learn the same things overall.

    Professors can give you all of the tools to succeed, but it is on you to improve yourself outside of class. This article seems more like a bitter rant than from a legitimate place of concern. Yes, the department isn’t perfect but the Rowan journalism department has done a lot for me and I don’t think this gives anybody the credit that they deserve.

  2. Dear Author,

    As a graduate of Rowan University from the Journalism Department, I have great pride telling people that I am graduate of this program. I came to Rowan to study Journalism, it was the profession I saw myself going into since I was in 8th grade. I had big dreams and though my past experiences in high school journalism prepared for me for the next chapter in my life. I had the best undergraduate career thanks to my many mentors and past editors of The Whit. While my professional career is not in the world of journalism but rather the world of higher education. want to speak you through a lens as former student journalist.

    I am sorry that your Rowan experience in the Journalism Department was not as good as you though. Did you research the university before transferring? Were you given proper advising at your past institution about working in a professional career in journalism? Its seems odd to me that you waited until the last issue of The Whit to air your true feelings like you were Martin Luther writing your own “Ides of March”. Perhaps if you were having problems this deep in you first, second, third, or last semester at Rowan you should have met with your advisor, professors, etc and looked for guidance. It’s why they are there at the university to assist in your professional development.

    While my career path did not end up in magazine journalism (like I thought my freshman year) I am so thankful for the journalism courses that I took because I use the skills from my News Reporting, Enterprise Journalism, Communication Law, Copy Editing, and Features Writing Courses on a daily basis. As an academic advisor it is my job to assist in student development through their understand of the academic programs. I also assist in the development of academic plans and assist students to figure out when they will graduate. I also work with students in crisis who are in poor academic standing. In every advising appointment I view it as an interview and I have to tailor every appointment differently. I learn new mysteries and have different outcomes throughout my work day.

    I work with transfer students everyday! I know you had struggles because you did not have the experience of starting your university experience as a first-year student. I sincerely sympathize with you. I am sure coming into the university as a junior was difficult having to take on your courses and learning the layout of a new institution. Did you take advantage of any opportunities to get involved in the College of Communication and Creative Arts or through the Office of Student Activities? Have you taken on an internship or used the services of the Career Center on campus? Again, I know these are tough questions but in reflecting on your Rowan experience, you have to think to you yourself, “did you take full advantage of the opportunities?”

    When it comes to trying to change the curriculum, I know these are hard things to accomplish as there is a lot of administrative red tape and has to go through a very specific pathway in the Division of Academic Affairs at the university. If you simply went to your professors and asked about why your course lectures were not going to plan (in your case about having a discussions about non-course related topics) or went all the way up to the Department Chair and asked for an appointment. You could have had a very constructive and closed door meeting rather than writing this column.

    Now that you are a graduate you have to now think about how as a writer how your opinions are affecting people. Think about how this column is read by a prospective new prospective student or their parent/guardian is read at the upcoming Freshman and Transfer Orientations (because you know this issue will still be on display across campus), current students, administrators and faculty. If you wrote this to express your ideals and experiences, than bravo, you are like every journalists in the United States who is exercising their 1st Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech. However think about the issues on campus between campus journalists and the Department of Journalism with members of the Administration. As a former SGA representative and Whit writer I have been on both sides of the board room and seen how writers like you make such claims and how this negativity affects the future.

    Perhaps you own “Ides Of March” might start discussion post-commencement but understand if you make claims like these you have to have the facts to back up them (as all of your journalism professors) will tell you in class and in the working world.

    I hope your have used this column to get your opinions out there but I hope you also come clear about real reason why you wrote this! Know there is still time for you to make amends with your professors, make connections with Journalism Alumni who are working at many of the publications you are looking for full-time and/or freelance work at. Perhaps this will help you to heal whatever you didn’t enjoy about your university experience. Know that when your cross the stage at graduation you have a long career ahead of you…start making connections rather than closing doors.

    Best of luck in your future.

  3. You know what gets me most about this? This hurts people, needlessly. And it hurts people who want nothing more to than to be your champion.

    The Rowan journalism program does have flaws, as does every J-school in the country and every journalistic institution in the world. But at the same time, you’re in an editing position at the student newspaper that allows you to write opinion pieces like this. You think you got there on your own? You didn’t. In between your rants, you even acknowledge that you did get things out of your time in journalism classes there.

    I’m a working journalist today in no small part because of the people at Rowan your screed ultimately targets — Kathryn, Claudia, Michelle, Mark, Carl, Ed, George, Deb, Bob and many others. Maybe they didn’t give me every thing I wanted, but they all gave me something. Today, I’m forever grateful for that.

    But hey, I felt this way too when I was a senior at Rowan. It’s sort of the trouble with an unpredictable profession where work in the field is critical. But still, I felt the instruction was lacking in certain areas. So I came back and advocated for what was missing so others could benefit. I successfully pitched a data journalism class that is now part of the curriculum (you should have taken it!). I continue to meet with faculty there because I’m grateful for what I did get out of Rowan and believe it’s part of my duty to pay that forward.

    I hope you get “nice and introspective” about this, because I don’t see what this accomplishes or even begins to solve. Your complaints, at their core, likely have validity to them. There are always things that can and should be improved at any institution. I just wish you’d done something about it when you were in a position to do so. Instead you gave everyone the finger on your way out the door, publishing something in the final issue of the semester that leaves no opportunity for a response. That’s cowardly.

    I wish you well man. I hope you go on to good things. But I also hope you learn something from this before you go get your degree.

  4. To the author:

    Seems to me like instead of writing an opinion piece in the year’s last issue of The Whit, these are concerns you should have been bringing up all year to your professors, or your fellow students. Or to the head of the journalism department, or your journalism advisers. Or to the dean, or the college’s advisory board, of which I’m a member. Maybe you have but I didn’t read that here and any good journalist would do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of a problem.

    Simply put, I’m very sorry you feel this way. My education at Rowan was stellar and I have managed to get excellent journalism jobs, eventually working my way up to an editor position at the top news organization in the world. Of course, nothing beats real world experience but your education is carefully thought out to give you as much knowledge as possible to apply what you learn to the real world once you leave school.

    I’m also sorry you think that you’ve learned everything you need to know in just a semester. I can say with 100 percent confidence that you have barely scratched the surface. Even 11 years into my career, I learn more each day, as you will.

    Have you done internships? Have you freelanced? Both of these things you are able to do while you are still in school. I hope you have taken advantage of that to get that real world experience.

    However, there are some things that are concerning. Yes, you should be doing investigative pieces and I know for a fact that some classes do that. Did you just not take those classes? Rowan journalism should definitely be offering that to students. And yes, feedback is crucial. Have you asked your professors for it? I can’t see how professors wouldn’t give you feedback if you asked, even if that isn’t part of their grading process.

    You are definitely entitled to your opinion and if you think you received a poor education, again, I’m sorry to hear that. I hope that you take what you did learn and strive to learn everything you can about journalism, especially once you enter the workforce. Good luck.