Journalism admissions at the U of R

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A photo of the glass outside of the J-school reads “SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM” in green and yellow, with photographs of past Minifie lecturers vaguely seen on the wall, blurred by the glass.
The new and improved J-School, now two-thirds less frosted!  Allister White

Major changes include expansion into communications, direct entry

In December 2022, amidst a whirlwind of concern about toxic culture and harassment which the Carillon covered previously, the University of Regina (U of R)’s School of Journalism (J-School) suspended admissions citing a reduction of core faculty and the need for an undated curriculum as reasons for the closure.  

In January 2023, shortly after the suspension of admissions, Gennadiy Chernov, the Department Head of the Journalism School spoke to the Carillon, stressing that “the reason for the suspension is based on academic grounds.”  

Chernov’s claim is contradictory to previous correspondence that the Carillon had in early 2023 with Shannon Dea, the Dean of Arts, who explained that one of the factors leading to the closure was to “provide an opportunity to evaluate the School’s climate in order to ensure that the J-School is a safe and supportive place to learn and to work.”  

Currently admitted students continued their studies. However, course options for those students were limited. The J-school also cancelled two courses after it was unable to find what it called “suitable applicants” to teach them. According to CBC, a spokesperson from the University of Regina Students’ Union expressed disappointment at the news. 

CBC also reported that a 2018-19 review of the J-School found that it needed an updated curriculum in order to maintain relevancy with increases in digital journalism. A 2020 business plan, implemented after the 2018-19 review of the school, listed five priorities including increasing enrolment, improving the curriculum, expanding into communications, and implementing a core Indigenous curriculum.  

Now, the Faculty of Arts has announced that “Journalism at the U of R is back, better than ever.” The announcement, in light of previous concerns about school culture, begs the question – is Journalism back, better than ever?  

In a classroom discussion in a JRN 100 class, Chernov claimed that the school’s response to what he calls “rumours” and “discussions” that took place when the program closed, is action – that the J-School will prove them correct or incorrect with time. When questioned about concerns of toxic culture, Chernov claimed that “some of the students…wrote to the Carillon…I understand their feelings at that point, that was a very shocking period,” and went on to explain that it was a period of high-stress for everyone.  

Now, Chernov claims the students are focused on their studies and the completion of their degrees, and that “they get what they want from the program.” Current students have reached out to the Carillon to express disagreement with Chernov’s insistence to potential students that all students currently studying in the J-School are satisfied. 

In what might be an attempt to increase enrolment, the program no longer requires two years of study in pre-journalism or an application into the J-School. There will no longer be a portfolio required to gain admission to the J-School. According to arts student services, “the Pre-Journalism program will be phased out effective May 1, 2024.” Direct student transfers for those in Pre-Journalism will be facilitated into the J-School’s new program–Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, News Media, and Communication on May 1, 2024.  

Chernov also spoke of an upward trend in communications job numbers as motivators for the curriculum update.  Despite there still being jobs in journalism, there are far more prospects within communications and public relations. Discussing this trend, Chernov stressed that as a school, “we have to acknowledge it.” 

The program now offers more flexibility— students can specialize in journalism or they can choose to specialize in communications. Regardless, Students in the program “will need to take at least two communications classes.”  

The J-School also claims it is attempting to expand paid internship opportunities to include paid 13-week internships in communications. Prior to the shift, many of the Bachelor’s of Journalism internships were in communications regardless. This came before the new program’s offer for students to specialize in communications.  

Pre-Journalism student Jordan Sargeant explained her thoughts on the changes, particularly on the removal of portfolio requirements. “I feel that a portfolio being required would force students into putting themselves out there. […] Without it there is less of an incentive to go and try new things,” Sergeant stated.  

Sergeant also took a critical look at the changes. Despite being glad that there was more freedom in the pre-requisites, Sergeant says she’s curious as to why some of the choices were made.  

The U of R’s new Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, News Media, and Communication is being launched at the same time as First Nations University of Canada launches degrees and post-degree programs in Indigenous Journalism and Indigenous Communication Arts.  

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