U of I Journalism school earns national accreditation

By John Hecht

The School of Journalism and Mass Media (JAMM) at the University of Idaho was accredited unanimously in May by the national Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC). It is the culmination of a quarter-century of on-and-off efforts shaping the program to meet the necessary national standards.

The school combines applied training for media professions with a liberal arts approach to the study of mass media. It offers undergraduate degrees in advertising, broadcasting-digital media, journalism and public relations, the announcement from ACEJMC said.

Idaho is now one of three such accredited programs in the Pacific Northwest, joining the University of Oregon and University of Montana. There are 116 schools nationally approved by ACEJMC.

“This is a school that provides serious, capable students with quality instruction and hands-on, practical media experience,” said Will Norton, dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi. Norton led the site team, which found the school in full compliance with all nine accrediting standards.

“We are pleased led that the council recognizes the commitment to excellence by the faculty and students of our School of Journalism and Mass Media,” said Katherine Aiken, UI interim provost and executive vice president. “The school made great strides to prepare for the rigorous review that preceded [the ACEJMC] vote.” Aiken was dean of the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences ̶ which includes JAMM ̶ during the most recent push for accreditation and was a consistent supporter of the efforts.

The site team praised the school’s curriculum, personalized advising, and hands-on opportunities through student media and internships. It commended the faculty’s balance of academic and professional media experience.

While the student media is under the aegis of the student government and is independent of JAMM, it provides many of the “hands-on” opportunities cited by ACEJMC. It includes the twice-weekly newspaper, The Argonaut; student radio station KUOI-FM; a four-times-a-year student-run magazine, The Blot (which replaced the discontinued yearbook ten years ago); the Photo Bureau; and Student Media Advertising. KUID-TV, the UI branch of Idaho Public Television, also provides extensive practical participation. JAMM (and its predecessors) have traditionally encouraged participation in student media.

“Our students impressed the site team with their enthusiasm for our program and the entire UI experience,” said Kenton Bird, director of the school since its reorganization in 2003. Bird, a 1976 journalism graduate and former editor of The Argonaut, returned to the UI in the late 1990s with broad experience in journalism and teaching.

The most recent chapter in the formal accreditation process began with a detailed self-study conducted by JAMM faculty in 2012-2013. A four-member team of educators and media professionals visited Moscow for four days last October to interview students, faculty and members of the school’s advisory board.

This was preceded by more than a decade of internal self-studies and responses to visits from informal, ad hoc review teams experienced in the national accreditation process.

Bird attributed the successful quest for accreditation to support from the UI administration, especially Aiken, and the JAMM faculty’s commitment to align their courses with ACEJMC’s curriculum standard. He also praised the school’s Advisory Board for sponsoring internships and helping to shape the curriculum.

ACEJMC standards address areas such as “mission, governance, and administration;” curriculum and instruction; full-time and part-time faculty; resources, facilities, and equipment; student services; and diversity and inclusiveness.

John Hecht is an at-large member of the IPC board. He also serves on the JAMM Advisory Board and is a UI graduate.