12 April 2006

Loyola University Dumping Broadcast Communication Sequences

There has been a lot of grief expressed about Tulane's decisions to cut programs in light of post-KTMB economic realities. Well, now there's word of more academic cutbacks at major New Orleans colleges and universities. And this one makes even less sense to me: Loyola University is getting rid of its broadcast communication sequences.

Now I admit that I am biased here. Loyola is also planning to get rid of other programs, as the WWL TV article states. And I admit that I am a professor of communication in another part of the country, but hear me out. Loyola University of New Orleans played an important role in the mass communication history of New Orleans and the Deep South. Loyola is the reason why WWL 870 AM and WWL TV 4 are the media kingpins that they are today.

For those of you who do not know media history in New Orleans, this 2002 press release from Loyola tells it all. WWL radio began in 1922 on the campus of Loyola University. It was the first radio station to broadcast in the Deep South. God knows where we would have been post-KTMB without what has now become a 50,000-watt superstation keeping people informed. WWL TV channel 4 shares the same origins. Both stations were owned by Loyola until 1989, when, as the press release states, the university sold it to build its endowment.

Now, Loyola is dumping its B.A. degrees in Broadcast Journalism, Broadcast Production, Communication Studies, and Film Studies. There will still be a communication presence on campus. According to the strategic plan available on the university's website, there will be a Communications Department on campus, but it will concentrate on advertising, journalism and public relations.

So why is this taking place? I don't have any inside information on the situation, but I know general things about how communication departments run. I feel that I can safely tell you that it probably isn't because broadcasting is an unpopular or undynamic major. In fact, it is a hugely popular major and a widely expanding career field. So why is this being done? My experience tells me there's only one reason: MONEY. Broadcasting (and computer disciplines--which are also being cut) is an expensive major to have on campus. If you are going to be up to date, you need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to have up-to-date facilities. And there's no return on your investment. The facilities are there strictly for hands-on use by students. It isn't the same as spending millions of dollars on, say, science labs and research facilities. If you create those, you can get millions of dollars in return from grants, fellowships, research, and so on. Few students ever set foot in these facilities. The stuff in there is too valuable to be wasted on them.

So, are they making a student decision or a business decision? You know what I think. I know from personal experience that colleges have become more "corporate" than many businesses in the corporate world.

But one thing is clear: the one university in New Orleans that is most synonymous with New Orleans broadcasting history will no longer have a broadcast program.

A copy of Loyola's strategic plan is here.


At April 13, 2006 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is very sad and a very large loss to the city


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