Last week, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said he is working to increase the number of journalism courses and internships offered by the University. Some professors have suggested a visiting professorship in media studies that could eventually develop into an entirely new concentration or major. While we are excited by this new attention to journalism, we hope the University will develop these new resources without compromising the values of the traditional Yale liberal arts education.
We strongly discourage the creation of a distinct journalism major. We appreciate the fact that Yale is not a trade school, and, while we recognize the value of diversity among the University’s available fields of study, we believe coursework at this school should remain fact- or research-based. At its best, a prospective journalism program should focus on critical analysis and historical study of media artifacts.
Such a program would be best integrated into the curriculum as an interdisciplinary concentration, much like Urban Studies. With this in mind, an ideal media studies program would explore critical and social responses to journalism, integrating courses in history, psychology, sociology, literature and film. But as a major, this program could become as nebulously defined as a Communications major can be at other universities.
Extracurricular activities can provide students with more than adequate hands-on experience in fields that would entail the practical application of elements within a media studies program such as journalism. We recognize that Yale College’s lack of certain professional majors offered at other schools — including accounting, business, operations research, pre-med and pre-law — may disappoint some students. But we believe the University’s commitment to developing critical reading, writing and analytical skills offers a more powerful statement regarding Yale’s academic priorities.
Rather than simply aiming to prepare students for post-graduate jobs or further schooling, the University provides undergraduates with a solid foundation for work in many fields, regardless of their major. The creation of a major explicitly devoted to journalistic training would contradict this fundamental philosophy.
The prospect of more in-depth journalism and media studies at Yale is an exciting one, whether it entails a handful of new classes or an entirely new track of study. But the format in which these ideas are implemented will set the tone for future additions to the University’s academic programs. The administration must proceed with caution in instituting further journalistic studies into its curriculum, since any change will to a degree impact the dynamics of not only the fields of study with which its classes are cross-listed, but also the basic principles of Yale academics.