JMC change to MDJ creates more inclusive school name

Journalism professor Jeff Fruit is the current interim director for School of Library and Information Science. The school is currently searching for a new director, after the former director resigned last year.

The history of media at Kent State reached a new milestone when the School of Journalism and Mass Communication changed its name to the School of Media and Journalism, becoming more inclusive to its umbrella of majors.

The school is housed in Kent State’s College of Communication and Information, or CCI, and its new name reflects the evolution of media.

New forms of all-encompassing media are what showed faculty that a new name could better represent the school, and the name was changed to reflect that because the field of journalism has to adapt to new platforms.  

“In terms of journalism, back then it was in magazines, newspapers, broadcast television and radio. Now online, all of those forms have slightly started to blend into a format that consumers can find on platforms now,” said Jeff Fruit, a journalism professor and the school’s former director.

Mitchell Felan, a graduate of the school, appreciated that journalism was kept in the title.

“As a journalism graduate, I have to say I appreciate that they’re still keeping journalism sort of at the forefront because that’s what the school is for. We’re one of the best schools in Ohio and taking journalism out of that branding I think would be a bad idea,” Felan said.

The new mediums for communication in the school can be organized under one word: media. Media includes parts in all of the majors in the school, which is why it was chosen as the focal point of the new name. 

The focus on journalism still exists within the school, but other majors showcase media differently and with a persuasive purpose.

“The school houses an umbrella of majors, and we thought they could be represented a little better. Mass communication is not as effective as a name when you are trying to include majors like advertising or public relations,” said Danielle Sarver Coombs, an advertising professor at Kent State who was involved with research on the decision.

Another main reason for the change was the type of communication taught in the school.

“So much of the communication we do is very targeted, and mass communication does not encompass that as well as media does,” said Jacqueline Marino, a journalism professor at Kent State.  

Targeted communication is about getting a message to a specified audience, rather than releasing it to an undetermined group of people. This makes it different from the original term mass communication, and the update reflects that.

“I’ve really been supportive of the school exploring some kind of name change that would include the word media, because I think it’s just current and more reflective of the range of things that we do,” said Amy Reynolds, the CCI dean.

The change at Kent State keeps it up to speed with other universities across the nation.

The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University updated its name from the Medill School of Journalism on March 11, 2011.

The change shows a newer age of media being recognized by universities beyond Kent State. The attachment of the phrase makes the name more modern in the sense that media can be electronic and not just print.

Kent State’s journalism school has existed through these changes in the past century to get to this point, and its website has an in-depth historical outline that explains how the school came to be.

The name started as the Department of Journalism and Publicity in 1932, and it became the School of Journalism in 1940.

After 47 years, the School of Journalism’s name changed when it merged with the Division of Telecommunication in 1987 to create the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, or JMC. 

“The School of Media and Journalism was known as the School of JMC since the 1980s, and CCI has been around since 2002,” Fruit said.

Since then, media has changed quickly with the introduction of the internet and social media. The school has also grown with the introduction of new majors like digital media production.

Within CCI, the School of Media and Journalism, or MDJ, isn’t the only school that is changed by the evolution of media.

The School of Emerging Media and Technology joined CCI and eventually changed its name from the School of Digital Sciences, spurring interest in a change to MDJ.

This name change was a factor in JMC moving forward to become MDJ because the decision was made in response to media evolving with modern technology, Coombs said.

Research was conducted by Coombs and Marino, and their findings on whether the name change was fitting were organized into a presentation shown to the Board of Trustees.

After gathering data from students, faculty and other target populations, they found that “Media and Journalism” was the most widely accepted new name in both students and professors, but more notably students. 

The Board of Trustees approved the proposal last spring.

The name was changed during an unstable time as the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning.

By the time students were shown the new change, they were dealing with the process of moving home during the early stages of the pandemic. 

COVID-19’s timing proved to be a drawback for the branding of the name change. The school has a focus on targeted communication, and yet the unexpected circumstances hindered faculty in getting the message to students.

One of the ways the new name will be shown to students is through the signage within Franklin Hall once classes resume.

Franklin Hall is the building that houses the School of MDJ. The lobby has a large sign with white lettering of the school’s old name, and a replacement sign is still in the works.

“We really want to think through how we can make sure that lobby is representative of everything the school does and is visually interesting and exciting,” Reynolds said.

The process of changing signage within the school will finalize the change for MDJ, and students will be able to physically see the new name of their school represented in lettering on the walls of Franklin Hall. 

Austin Monigold covers CCI. Contact him at [email protected]