If There's Cachet in a Long, Fancy Name, Medill Is Now a Heck of a Cool Place | Bleader

Monday, March 14, 2011

If There's Cachet in a Long, Fancy Name, Medill Is Now a Heck of a Cool Place

Posted By on 03.14.11 at 08:30 AM

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John Lavine
  • John Lavine
The journalism school at Northwestern University, which had taken to calling itself simply the Medill School under Dean John Lavine, is now formally the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The Northwestern trustees made the change official at their meeting on Friday.

It's a change that Lavine really wanted, and we shouldn't begrudge him his happiness. In a Q&A released by the university that you can read here, he sounds delighted. "Some pointed out the school was missing a large opportunity to represent to the world everything that we really are," he says. "It has also been an issue for Medill Integrated Marketing Communications students that the name of the school did not recognize their education and they felt marginalized."

The world has now been set straight, and a long struggle for respect has triumphed. Who can gainsay these advances?

Lavine does allow, in his Q&A, that "the values of journalism and marketing communications are definitely are at odds sometimes. The job of a specialist in reputation management is to protect her client’s public image — her duty is to the client. The job of a reporter is to discover facts, warts and all — her duty is to the truth." But what of it? "In the real world one encounters competing interests all the time. What better place and time to understand, experience and learn how to deal with that than in a professional educational setting?"

Lavine is correct. At the journalism school I attended at the University of Missouri — a school frequently compared to Medill, usually favorably — editorial majors such as myself were required to take an introductory course in advertising. I also took a course in public relations. Meanwhile, the ad majors got a taste of reporting. The business model of journalism was grounded in this church-state cleavage, so the better we understood both sides of it the better. After all, some of us would go on to be publishers.

My reaction to the Medill name change was to pay a visit to my alma mater's website. It's still simply the University of Missouri School of Journalism — J School — and I guess I'm relieved. Everyone at Mizzou seemed to accept journalism as a complicated, messy field that didn't need to be parsed, and apparently they still do. And everyone held to the tenet that the world correctly thought all of our graduates were wonderful, even the ones who set out to be image consultants.

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