Or just call it the School of Marketingism and be done with it

Northwestern’s Medilll School of Journalism has long been in the first rank of J-schools, right up there with Columbia, Missouri, Berkeley, Texas, Michigan… In fact, Google puts Medill right behind those, in that order, in a search for “School of Journalism”.

Yet here’s Medill committee to explore suggestions for new name, in The Daily Northwestern.

It begins,

The Medill School of Journalism is forming a committee to explore a possible name change.

Dean John Lavine said the committee will consider altering the name to better represent the school and what it offers.

“We’re really exploring what the name should be, could be, what people think about it,” he said. “There will be a process for people to have real input on it, and that’s what is important.”

Lavine did not comment on specific names being discussed, but said that in informal conversations he’s had with students and others, adding “Integrated Marketing Communications” to the name was a popular idea.

The piece goes on to quote a number of students on the matter, and closes the piece with the only source that makes complete sense:

Chardae Davis, a Medill junior, said the possible change really bothers her, and that the school was too old to change its name.

“It’s a brand in a way,” she said. “Medill has a reputation and the name stands for something.”

While she understands that journalism is evolving and so the curriculum is changing, Davis said that doesn’t mean the name should be altered.

“We came to Medill for Medill,” she said. “Not for the Medill School of Journalism and insert rest of name here.”

Back in the middle of the piece, there’s this:

“This is not something that any school at NU gets to decide,” Lavine said. “Only the trustees get to decide the name. That’s the way it should be.”

Let’s hope the trustees listen to Ms. Davis.

Meanwhile, “School of Journalism” has already been dropped from the Medill home page. It’s just MEDILL now. The About Page says,

Since 1921, Medill has been recognized worldwide as one of the real jewels at one of the nation’s elite universities. At Medill, young men and women have been shaped for the incredible successes they have achieved in journalism and the Medill-invented field of integrated marketing communications. Here, journalism students are taught on the streets of Chicago and Washington, D.C., and marketing students are taught through projects for real-world clients in for-credit residencies. Something else about Medill: Our values. They are: 1.) Be respectful of the school and of yourself and of others – which includes personal and professional integrity; 2.) Be the best – which means making no small plans, being bold and taking risks; and 3.) Be distinctive; be you – which includes resisting conformity, thinking uniquely.

I’m sure they teach well and do good work. But Journalism and “Integrated Marketing Communications” — a buzzphrase if there ever was one — should, at most, have squat to do with each other. Here’s what Medill says about the latter at its page:

Pioneered at Medill, the graduate program in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern educates students for careers in marketing communications and marketing management. The program combines the traditional areas of marketing communications with business skills in marketing, finance, statistics and organizational behavior to form a unique program on the cutting edge of marketing communications and customer relationship management. Top marketing and media organizations need forward-thinking professionals who understand the changing marketplace and who can implement a customer-focused approach that is critical to their future success. They look to Northwestern’s Integrated Marketing Communications master’s degree program to find these professionals.

Well, the one upside I see here is that maybe I could talk to some of these people about VRM, and how “relationship management” should go two ways and not just one. But I’m sure, if we have that conversation, it won’t be anywhere near the subject of Journalism.

Terry Heaton has similar thoughts on the matter.

5 comments

  1. Sean Upton’s avatar

    I do not understand why they do not make an *incremental* change to the school/college name: to “Journalism and Media Studies” (JMS) like many universities seem to be doing. Then offer a focused Journalism major with various emphases and an interdisiplinary “media studies” major that offers a bit of Journalism, Advertising, marketing, cultural studies, etc. Infuse both with what was previously called “new media” studies, technology, design, mass-media law, etc… Seems simple enough?

  2. Geoff Livingston’s avatar

    I can’t see the value of using a term that was hot in the 90s to describe a program. If it’s communications, just call it that. I agree that Media is a good incremental step.

    My old program at Georgetown has a good name. Communications, Culture and Technology. Interesting use of cross-discipline studies to examin the modern media environment.

  3. Heath Row’s avatar

    I graduated from Medill with a BSJ in 1995. While the undergraduate program at the time concentrated primarily on newspaper journalism, the graduate program focused squarely on integrated marketing and a solid magazine publishing program. The focus on IMC is no surprise. Don Schultz, arguably the father of IMC, is Professor (Emeritus-in-Service) at Northwestern.

    Personally, I think I would have been put off by a joint journalism/IMC name or program focus. The two don’t make the most comfortable of neighbors, and frankly, as you’ve noted, the encroachment of IMC raises some serious issues about the journalism being taught.

    Naming the school to include IMC would be a nice tip of the hat to Don, and he does deserve attention and respect for his work, which is highly relevant, but there are other options that would be more accurate and less concerning. Take, journalism and communications. That could embrace media studies, marketing, advertising, journalism, and other practices and professions quite comfortably.

    I think that would work better than Sean’s suggestion of journalism and media studies because it’s more active and practice/trade oriented.

    But had Medill done journalism and IMC so explicitly in 1991? I might very well have gone to IU instead.

    (Go Cats!)

  4. Edw3rd’s avatar

    Like many of the reporters formed at Medill, the School struggles with media convergence.

    The Dean has done a terrible job of managing the process, but we must remember that the world of journalism, media, advertising, PR, etc have changed dramatically. That doesn’t mean to shuttle the IMC program over to Kellogg (they don’t want it anyway) or to drop it with some ridiculous Church-State diatribe.

    Much like the NYT, FT, WSJ, Christian Science Monitor or even Slate – the communication products created, sold, and consumed today are a different beast with many more heads and hands.

    Let’s see some constructive dialog on convergence rather than more moaning over the loss of 3 martini lunches or ink-stained shirtsleeves.

  5. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Edw3rd.

    I’m all for constructive dialog. But I’m also against a convergence that subordinates journalism to marketing. The two are not the same, and converging them subordinates the former to the latter.

    I’ve worked in marketing communications during a very long break in my career as a journalist. Returning to journalism from marketing communications was a great relief to me.

    What should be converging are media, not journalism and marketing. The principles of journalism go far deeper, and are far more important, than ink-stained shirtsleeves.

    I see by the Medill Journalism index page that it’s still about journalism, and that what’s being converged are indeed media. Integrated Marketing Communications is a different heading and a different field. That’s good. (A separate matter: The page is an extra-fancy Microsoft .asp one, and renders terribly on my laptop running Firefox — a triumph of design over utility.)

    But the Medill School of Journalism is no more. Journalism is now a program. That’s fine. But not as fine as it was.

    Which is another way of saying that I second what Heath Row says above.

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