TO JOURNALISM AND COMMUNICATION PROGRAMS:
A Study of the Uses and Functions of
Toni Coleman (Grad Student)
Lawrence Soley (Faculty Member)
College of Communication
Milwaukee, WI 53233
TO JOURNALISM AND COMMUNICATION PROGRAMS:
A Study of the Uses and Functions of
This study presents a survey of journalism school administrators, who
were queried about whether their
units had committees dedicated to multicultural issues and
diversity. Only 16.67 percent reported that they had such
committees. A follow-up survey, sent to the chairs of
these committees and a control group of administrators, showed
that the committees had little power, and few had actually
developed multicultural courses or acquired materials for use in
classes. Overall, little is being done to bring a
multicultural perspective to journalism education.
At the 1990 AEJMC convention, concern was voiced about the news
media's ability to present fair and accurate news about minorities.
Conference attendees noted that as the U.S. evolved into a multicultural
society, the news media's composition and stereotypical presentation
minorities showed that the media were not keeping up with these
panel suggested that college journalism and mass communication programs
require cultural and cross-cultural course work to insure that future
journalists are prepared for a multicultural society. One way to achieve
this, a panel member observed, was to give high priority to
scholarships, journalism workshops and culturally-related events
While journalism and mass communications programs at predominantly white
universities need to adopt a multicultural approach to education, there
has also been a push to strengthen the quality of journalism education
historically black institutions. The Association of Black College
Journalism and Mass Communications Programs is leading the effort by
encouraging professional journalists to teach at black universities, and
working to increase the number of accredited journalism programs at
historically black institutions (Fitzgerald, 1992).
A study by Liebler (1993) found that predominantly black colleges are
making a considerable effort to integrate the journalism field,
22.6 percent of the total number of degrees conferred on black
while non-black universities are lax in their efforts to integrate
undergraduate journalism programs. Of the degrees conferred at
predominantly white institutions, 5.1 percent of recipients were black, 2.4
percent Hispanic, 2.1 percent Asian, and .3 percent Native American, well
below minority representation in the general population. Liebler
also showed that other college programs, such as social sciences and
psychology, were better integrated than the journalism programs.
Diversity within the journalism profession depends on applicants
graduating from journalism programs. For this reasons, Kern-Foxworth and
Miller (1993) conducted a survey study of journalism and communication
schools to determine how successful journalism programs were in bringing
multicultural perspective to their curricula, and increasing minority
enrollment at predominantly white university programs.
Their survey of 300 ACEJMC accredited journalism programs, which had a
response rate of 53 percent, suggested that little progress was made
between 1982 and 1991. Although 71 percent of the 160 respondents felt
that an increase in recruitment and retention efforts of minority
was very important, and 68 percent felt it important to recruit and
minority faculty, few colleges had explicit programs to achieve these
goals. At least 48 percent of the schools did not sponsor a minority
nications organization, and only 5.7 percent offered a minorities and
media course. The rarity with which a minorities and media course was
offered is explained by the attitudes of the respondents -- only 36
felt that a multicultural course addressing issues of diversity,
sensitivity and stereotypes was important.
Programs that are known to effect minority student retention were even
rarer. About 62 percent of the schools failed to offer counseling,
percent failed to offer tutoring, and 91.4 percent failed to support
groups for minority students (Kern-Foxworth and Miller 1993).
Kern-Foxworth and Miller (1993) expected multicultural journalism
education to be improved from 1982. However, they
found "that the status of multicultural education has deteriorated rather
than proliferated during the decade under investigation, 1982-1991."
other recommendations to integrate journalism programs, the authors
suggested that schools create a multicultural affairs committee that would
provide recruitment and retention support and programming for
students and faculty. The purpose of a multicultural affairs committee is
to ensure that diversity goals are set, and to see to it that efforts are
made to achieve these goals -- something that has been consistently
at a majority of journalism schools.
The purpose of this study is to determine whether journalism and
communication departments have established multicultural committees to
establish and implement diversity goals, as Kern-Foxworth and Miller
suggested. The study also compares schools with and without cultural
diversity committees to see whether the committees do help in setting
achieving goals, as Kern-Foxworth and Miller (1993) suggested they
The study was conducted in two steps. First, a survey study of the
deans and chairs of journalism schools and colleges of communication
conducted, inquiring as to whether their unit had a multicultural
curriculum committee within it. If the college or department had such a
committee, the administrator was asked to identify the committee
Second, a different questionnaire was later sent to the heads of these
committees (and a randomly selected control group of administrators),
asking them about the efforts to diversity the curriculum within their
In the first stage, a self-administered questionnaire was mailed to the
deans of colleges of communication, the directors of schools of
journalism, and the chairs of departments of journalism listed in the
1993-1994 Journalism and Mass Communication Directory published by AEJMC.
When a university listed several administrative units, as did
State University at Chico and the University of Southern Mississippi,
questionnaire was sent to the ranking administrator. In these cases,
was the dean of the college and director of the school, respectively.
Questionnaires were not sent to the heads of English Departments or
non-communication departments, such as at Southern Louisiana
Black Hills State University, and Eastern Michigan University, even
they are listed in the directory as teaching journalism courses.
The cover letters and questionnaires, in the form of a self-addressed,
stamped postcards, were sent to 370 administrators. The cover letter
explained that we were "conducting a study of the efforts made by
journalism and communication departments to diversify their curriculum."
The cover letter asked the administrators to complete "a very short
questionnaire concerning multiculturalism in communication curricula," and
asked them to return it to us.
The questionnaire asked respondents to identify their institution, and
then asked, "Does your school/department/sequence of journalism/mass
communication have a multicultural committee, as opposed to an
action committee, that examines ways to integrate multicultural issues
the curriculum?" The respondents were asked to answer "yes" or "no"
this question and, if they answered "yes," to identify the chair of the
Four months after the initial questionnaires were sent out, a second
cover letter, questionnaire and SASE was mailed to every individual
identified by their administrator as the head of a committee concerned with
curriculum diversity. The cover letter explained how their name was
obtained, and stated that "we would like more information about your
committee, its mission, its activities, and the execution of committee
decisions." The cover letter asked the identified individuals to
the questionnaire and "return it to us at your earliest convenience."
The questionnaire asked respondents to identify their institution and
proper name of their committee. Open-ended questions about the
powers and budget of the committee followed. Respondents were also
about the "topics or issues" that the committee addressed, and the
"programs or changes that [the] committee has initiated" within the
curriculum. Lastly, respondents were asked about "materials, such as
books, videos and other classroom aides," that the committee had
and to evaluate them.
At the same time that these questionnaires were sent to the committee
chairs, a similar cover letter and questionnaire was sent to
at universities that did not have multicultural committees. These
questionnaires also asked about "topics or issues concerning
multiculturalism that your faculty has discussed at faculty meetings,"
programs or changes that concern multiculturalism" that were instituted in
the administrator's unit, the budget available "for purchasing
multicultural materials, such as books and videos," and how they evaluated
Of the 370 questionnaires initially mailed to communication and
journalism administrators, 246 were returned, for a 66.46 percent response
rate. Of the 245 responses, 205 (or 83.33 percent) reported that they
not have multicultural or curriculum diversity committees. Only 40
16.67 percent) reported that they did.
Questionnaires were then sent to the multicultural committee chairs at
the 40 universities, and to a control group of administrators at 40
others. Of the 80 questionnaires sent, only 21 were returned, producing a
response rate of just over 25 percent (see Table 1). Twelve of the
responses were from the chairs of multicultural committees and nine were
responses no responses
With committee 12 28
Without committee 9 31
administrators at universities without multicultural committees. The
differences in the response rates were not significantly different (x2 =
.58, d.f. = 1).
Of the twelve responses, two denied the existence of a multicultural
committee in their department, suggesting that at these institutions,
committees are just on paper. At the ten institutions with
multicultural committees, the committees merely have advisory powers;
have the power to change curricula.
The missions of the committees were to "promote sensitivity to
minorities and women in journalism," "promote interest and participation in
diversity programs," "recruit minority faculty and students," and "promote
the development of multicultural courses." Of the ten, only three
reported that they had actually developed a multicultural course, and only
at one of these universities was the course made a requirement.
Two of the ten chairs reported that their committees had developed a
reference list of reading and audio-visual materials, brought
speakers to their school, and were involved in "course enrichment" and
"infusing" multicultural issues into the curriculum, although what this
entailed was never described.
At Brigham Young University, the college developed an exchange program
with a predominantly minority university, a high school program for
minorities, including workshops, scholarships, and mentoring. The
University of Texas at Austin reported that it was involved in the
publication of a minority newspaper and offered "five courses (three
undergrad, two grad) dealing specifically with multicultural and/or
Of the nine responding administrators at universities without
multicultural committees, five stated that they had initiated
efforts to diversify the curriculum. At department meetings, one
said they discussed the integration of multicultural material into
another discussed student recruitment, and another discussed the need for
a more ethnically diverse faculty. One school discussed involvement
campus-wide retention program for minority students and promoted
participation at campus-wide cross-cultural programs.
Few actual changes were actually initiated within the curricula of schools
that did not have multicultural committees. Only one school without a
committee offers a multicultural course and recruits multicultural
lecturers, and one school reports that it infuses multiculturalism
some of its courses by utilizing "non-western attitude theories and
international case studies." One school is developing a course on women
and the media, while the others simply encourage faculty to integrate
multicultural issues into their courses.
Both groups, the universities with multicultural committees and those
without, were asked if they had a budget for purchasing materials, such
books and videos, that would help the faculty integrate multicultural
issues into the curriculum. Only three schools had specific budgets that
would help integrate multiculturalism into courses, suggesting that
are not dedicated to this mission, particularly when it comes to money.
When asked to provide a list of their multicultural classroom materials
and an evaluation of these, only one school with a committee and one
without provided an actual list. One simply reported that they had "good
stuff," and another reported they had "good material," but did not
a list or even one example.
Kern-Foxworth and Miller (1993) suggested that the development of a
multicultural affairs committee at journalism programs would be the
starting point in integrating journalism programs, thereby integrating the
journalism field. As we move toward a multicultural society,
programs still fail to produce graduates who can function in such a
society. As the research shows, 83.33 percent responded that they did not
have a multicultural committee that could ensure that diversity goals
set and achieved.
When a more extensive probe of the schools with committees was done with a
follow-up questionnaire, the response rate was incredibly low, 12 out of
40. When the control group of schools without committees were asked
they did to integrate multiculturalism in the absence of a diversity
committee, the response rate was again very low, 9 our of 40. If the
response rate of a survey is a measure of interest, then journalism
programs exhibit little interest in the topic of diversifying the
Furthermore, schools with committees listed a profusion of goals for the
multicultural committee, but with only advisory powers, but few of
goals were being met. The impact of these committees are minuscule, as
shown by the rarity of multicultural communications courses, the
of a budget and lack of multicultural materials used to integrate courses.
Overall, journalism programs are doing little to promote
Fitzgerald, Mark (1992, October 3). Black colleges look to
improve j-schools. Editor and Publisher p. 17.
Kern-Foxworth, Marilyn and Miller, Debra A. (1993).
Multicultural journalism education revisited: 1982-1991.
Journalism Educator 48 (2), 46-55.
Liebler, Carol M. (1993). The patterns of diversity in the
student body. Journalism Educator 48 (2), 27-33.
Stein, M. L. (1990, September 1). The multicultural approach.
Editor & Publisher, pp. 12-13.