UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Boston needs a journalism program

Over Spring Break, me and nine other editors from The Mass Media attended the College Media Association Conference in New York City. We learned a heck of a lot while there—so much, in fact, that I came to realize just how much we need a journalism program here at UMass Boston.

The Mass Media is completely student led, and incredibly independent for college newspaper standards. That alone is reason not to take what we have here for granted. All of us who work for the newspaper and UMass Boston’s other publications like The Watermark and Writ Large are incredibly proud of what we do, and we strive to produce quality work that reflects our pride in every edition.

However, we are admittedly making a lot of things up as we go along. Sure, many of us are in communication or english majors, or at least have taken some communication or english courses, but we have very, very little formal training in journalism—and I mean in being journalists, not just analyzing the news.

What I have personally found is that while learning to analyze journalism is certainly crucial, it only goes so far. Learning how to actively be a journalist—how to write for various sections, how a newsroom works, journalist’s legal rights et cetera—is a whole different animal…and we just don’t have much of that experience.

Because of this, I think our team actually got more out of the CMA conference than almost anyone else there.I’m sure many students were sitting through the seminars thinking “oh man, I know all this already” and doodling in their notepads. Meanwhile, we were all glued to the presenters, taking furious notes. This conference is one of our only sources of formal education in journalism and we attend a Massachusetts state university. Doesn’t that seem weird?

It’s become abundantly clear to me that UMass Boston is stuck in an unfortunate paradox. We are home to an incredibly independent, student-run college newspaper and yet not home to a journalism program of any kind, really.

How does this make sense? The Greater Boston Area is known for its journalism—The Boston Globe is well known and well respected on a national level; we have two NPR radio stations, one of which is actually run by Boston University; the Harvard Crimson and Harvard Lampoon have been some of the greatest outlets of student media for over a century.

We at UMass Boston have this uniquely independent paper that’s been around since the 1960s,  but we have no programs to back that up. It’s a double-edged sword; our independence allows us to speak the truth and report on anything we think is truly important. We are also left on our own to figure everything out ourselves—and because we have no formal journalism program, we have no journalist advisor.

Why is this such a problem? The Mass Media does a pretty great job, all things considered. Of course, we can always improve—the CMA conference proved that to me beyond a doubt—but isn’t it good that we are so unique?

Here’s the main reason whyit’s a problem. UMass Boston itself is failing to play an active role in developing and supporting the kind of quality journalists that this world desperately needs. While bad journalism, misinformation and disinformation have always been rampant, the internet—and the 24-hour newscycle in general—are hyper charging the large-scale consequences. If UMass Boston is truly as social justice minded as the administration claims, why are we not training good journalists?

The Mass Media’s UMBeInvolved page outright says that “The paper also functions as the closest thing UMass Boston has to a journalism major.” [1] Yet what serves as a de-facto journalism major is a revolving door of students with little proper training in journalism. We don’t even have any graduate students in our ranks. I don’t think I need to explain why this might cause some serious problems for Beacons who might go on to do journalistic work.

Look, I know we’re not exactly in the best financial shape right now. But I actually don’t think creating a journalism program would cost as much as some might think. We already have great communication and english departments with professors who cover topics like how to write for different audiences or how to analyze and study journalistic media. We just need to expand upon what we already have!

Of course, opening an entire “School of Journalism” would be ideal. Even if that’s too pie-in-the-sky, I really don’t think that hiring a few dedicated journalism professors and integrating their courses with some english and communication courses in a major program would be that costly. The benefits—including revenue from new enrollments—would surely outweigh the costs.

So, if any of you are interested in journalism in any capacity or are just really concerned about the state of news media, please make your voice heard about this. Mention how much you want UMass Boston to have a journalism major to your communication or english professors at any chance you get. Go to events where administration officials are appearing and tell them too. Go to open faculty meetings in-person or on Zoom and make your voice heard there.

On that note, I know I have personally mentioned this to Provost Berger before, so if you’re reading this Provost…I’m really serious about a journalism program, and I know a lot of other people who are too!


About the Contributor
James Cerone, Opinions Editor