What is “strategic communications”?

By Christopher B. Daly

images-1While not wanting to sound holier than anybody, I have to ask:

What is a school of Journalism (not to mention the oldest one in the country) doing with a search for a new professor of something called “strategic communications”?

The once-proud University of Missouri School of Journalism, founded in 1908, recently posted this job advertisement:

The Missouri School of Journalism is seeking a colleague who will teach at the graduate and undergraduate levels in strategic communication in the areas of marketing research, data analysis, and consumer insights.  We invite applications for a full-time 9-month tenure track assistant professor beginning in August 2013.

Why are they teaching “marketing research, data analysis, and consumer insights”? What do those things have to do with journalism? Journalism is simple to define: try to find out the truth and tell it. I don’t know what those other activities are. They sound suspiciously like figuring out how to sell stuff (and maybe candidates or ideologies) to people who may or may not be better off after being researched and analyzed.

Obviously, the answer is that Mizzou has strayed from its original founding mission. That mission was spelled out by the school’s first dean, Walter Williams. It is worth recalling:


The creed

I believe in the profession of Journalism.
I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of responsibility, trustees for the public; that all acceptance of lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust.
I believe that clear thinking, clear statement, accuracy and fairness are fundamental to good journalism.
I believe that a journalist should write only what he holds in his heart to be true.
I believe that suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible.
I believe that no one should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman; that bribery by one’s own pocket book is as much to be avoided as bribery by the pocketbook of another; that individual responsibility may not be escaped by pleading another’s instructions or another’s dividends.
I believe that advertising, news and editorial columns should alike serve the best interests of readers; that a single standard of helpful truth and cleanness should prevail for all; that supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service.
I believe that the journalism which succeeds the best-and best deserves success-fears God and honors man; is stoutly independent; unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power; constructive, tolerant but never careless, self-controlled, patient, always respectful of its readers but always unafraid, is quickly indignant at injustice; is unswayed by the appeal of the privilege or the clamor of the mob; seeks to give every man a chance, and as far as law, an honest wage and recognition of human brotherhood can make it so, an equal chance; is profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international good will and cementing world-comradeship, is a journalism of humanity, of and for today’s world.


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