Discuss the Newspaper Division’s Name
Ed.: HOW TO JOIN THE DISCUSSION: Register, login, then click the blog’s title to get back here. Read to the bottom to Speak Your Mind on Bill’s original message, or click a blue “Reply” tag to respond to a specific comment. The discussion will be open until September. The same topic on the division’s e-mail list is archived here. Additional notes from Bill appear in the Summer 2010 LeadTime. Links to the 2008 e-mail discussion appear at the end of the comment list.
by Bill Cassidy, division chair
I thought of beginning with some pithy little saying that would accurately describe the issue I want to address in this column. I could have written something like “It’s the elephant in the room,” or “We’ve been down this road before,” or maybe even some reference to “stirring up a hornet’s nest.” Well, it seems I’ve gone and done just that. But, here’s the bottom line: I strongly believe that we need to revisit the issue of changing our division’s name and bring the conversation to some kind of conclusion.
Indeed, we have been down this road before. In her Summer 2008 column, former division head Susan Keith stated “I believe we need a name that better embraces the full range of what our scholars study and what our industry does.” From there a spirited discussion about a possible name change ensued on the division’s listserv…
Anyone interested in revisiting the exchanges can do so. Our division Webmaster Bob Stepno has smartly placed a link to the discussion on the division’s homepage and it can be accessed directly at
During this time the division membership was also surveyed to see if the discussion should be continued. While those responding only constituted a fraction of the division membership (N=49), former division head Jack Rosenberry said in his Fall 2008 column that 58 percent of respondents believed the discussion was worthy of continuation.
Comments from the respondents were wide-ranging and the survey results, combined with the listserv discussion prompted division leadership to conclude that while there didn’t appear to be strong support for a name change, the issue needed to remain on the agenda.
Now it’s nearly two years later and there are additional reasons to reboot the discussion—including some that are practical, rather than philosophical. I outlined a couple of these in my previous column. It’s possible that our name has a negative impact on membership. While membership numbers haven’t changed much in the past couple of years, there is an overall decline in the last several and it certainly seems that we don’t attract as many younger members as some other divisions. More than a few members have told me their graduate students are uninterested in both submitting to and joining the division because they feel it lacks relevance in the 21st century. Admittedly, this information is anecdotal. But, it certainly adds to the importance of a discussion about a potential name change. Related to membership is the issue of money. Declining numbers means less money for the division and we have already reached the point of having to be very judicious with our funds.
Another concern that came up in the previous discussion was the impact a name change would have on other divisions and our relations with those divisions, most notably the Radio-Television Journalism Division (RTVJ). This issue becomes increasingly relevant if any name change we consider includes the words “news,” and/or “journalism.” To that end I have been in contact with Gary Hanson, the head of RTVJ to invite their membership to contribute to our discussion. Gary has informed me that RTVJ is also considering a name change. Perhaps our divisions can explore the pros and cons together. At the time of deadline for this column, Gary and I have made arrangements to further discuss the subject.
In the hopes of spurring even more conversation, I would like for the discussion to take place on the division’s excellent new blog at http://aejmc.net/news/. This column will be posted on the blog and any interested parties can utilize the blog’s “comment” feature to participate.
I have purposely made the focus here one of getting the conversation started, as opposed to stating my personal preferences. In part this is because, while I do think our name needs to be changed in some form, I’m not quite certain what that name should be exactly. But, I highly encourage those participating in the discussion to also provide suggestions for a name.
For now, there is no timeline for bringing the issue to a conclusion. Division leadership will analyze the discussion and proceed from there.
I will finish with the following in the hope it can provide a starting point for the conversation. In examining the papers accepted by the division at the national convention in the past two years, more than one-third (36 percent) addressed newspaper Web sites. This information can be looked at in two different and very distinct ways. It can be argued that because such a significant number of papers address newer media, the division’s name should reflect that. But, on the other hand, the results might also suggest that newer media scholars are finding and utilizing the division in solid numbers and a name change is unnecessary.
Let the conversation begin (again)!