One of the great sources of public discussion in the state of Louisiana honored a century of excellence, as LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication celebrated 100 years of journalism education at the university by honoring the past but looking ahead to the future delivery of news and information.
The centennial celebration, held Oct. 23-26, featured a series of events, including the school’s annual 1913 Society Dinner with Alberto Ibargüen, CEO of the Knight Foundation, who spoke and was awarded the Manship Prize for using digital media and technology in the service of public affairs. At the annual Hall of Fame Gala, the school inducted Dan Borné, the voice of Tiger Stadium and Manship School graduate; Jay Perkins, a retired Manship School faculty member and former Reveille adviser; and, posthumously, Kevin Reilly Sr., a former Lamar Advertising CEO and supporter and friend of the school. All of the Hall of Fame’s inductees since its origin in 1975 were also honored at the event.
The celebration also included a keynote address from journalism legend Carl Bernstein, of the infamous Watergate investigation.
Additionally, a series of retrospective panels highlighted the changes at Tiger TV and The Daily Reveille, as well as updates in public relations and a spotlight on the future of news. The celebration also included an entire day devoted to developments in media and our advancing digital world, a birthday party celebration in downtown Baton Rouge and a tailgate party overlooking Tiger Stadium before the LSU-Furman football game on Saturday
Connecting to the Past
The School of Mass Communication began modestly in 1912-13 with one journalism class – English 5/6 – buried in the English Department. By February 1915, according to a contemporary Reveille article, English professor Hugh Mercer Blain was teaching newspaper writing classes. At the end of that year, the Department of Journalism was officially recognized and, by 1918, had grown to four faculty members who offered 12 courses. In 1927, it became one of the first accredited journalism programs in the country and, four years later, one of the first to be elevated from department status to that of a professional School of Journalism, which remained located within the College of Arts & Sciences. The school began offering a master’s degree in 1933.
When LSU’s campus was relocated from the grounds of the federal garrison in downtown Baton Rouge to its current location on the old Gartness Plantation, the Journalism School was housed in Allen Hall. In 1937, it moved again – this time to Thomas Boyd Hall – in order to offer a more commodious environment for the “news rooms, laboratories, classrooms, and equipment – desks, typewriters, type cases, make-up store and other essential accessories.”
“You had to learn how to change a typewriter ribbon before you could do anything else,” said Jim Butler, the current editor of the Eunice News in Eunice, La., who was a student in the journalism program during the 1960s. “You might say we became ink-stained forever.”
In 1948, plans began to move the flourishing school into a building known as Alumni Hall – a nine-square Palladian-styled building with a center rotunda, designed by New Orleans’ architects Favrot & Livaudais – that had been carefully deconstructed and transported, brick by brick, from the downtown campus to the present location. In 1960, the building was partially renovated, and renamed the Journalism Building.
By 1984, the school’s curriculum had been accredited not only in print journalism and advertising, but also in broadcast. In recognition of its past success, the Manship family – owners of local media – made a major financial contribution to the school. In appreciation for their beneficence, the school was renamed the Manship School of Journalism in 1985. Seven years later, after the curriculum had grown to offer sequences in advertising/public relations, broadcast and journalism, the name was again changed – to the Manship School of Mass Communication.
In 1994, the school was separated from the College of Arts & Sciences as an independent senior college at LSU, headed by its first dean, John Maxwell Hamilton.
“Separating ourselves was crucial, because most journalism or communication schools are their own entity,” said Hamilton, who served as the Manship School’s dean until 2010. “We put together a plan with a set of goals for what kind of school we wanted to be, and I’m proud to say that we accomplished all of those goals in curriculum, fundraising, academic standards as well as creating our doctorate programs.”
“Jack came in here with a plan,” said Louis A. Day, alumni professor in the Manship School and its oldest tenured faculty member. “It was a five-year plan, and he accomplished everything in five years.”
Dynamic changes within the school continued, including a complete overhaul of the curriculum and the addition of new undergraduate areas – independent public relations and advertising tracks as well as a track in political communications.
The school achieved full academic recognition in 1998 when the LSU Board of Supervisors and the Board of Regents approved the establishment of a doctoral program, the only Ph.D. in the United States focusing on media and public affairs. This concentration was the impetus for the subsequent creation of the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs in 2000, which absorbed the Office of Research & Public Service.
“We’ve gone from being a journalism school, to being a multi-dimensional mass communication school, to being all that, plus finding a way to teach practical politics to our students,” said Professor Robert Mann, the Manship Chair in Journalism and the director of the Reilly Center from 2006-2013. “I believe we are unique in that regard, and it really gives us a leg up in recruiting.”
To keep pace with the stature of its academic program as well as changes in media technology, the school’s facilities were extensively renovated. A complete makeover of Hodges Hall, next door to the Journalism Building, created a state-of-the-art television studio, bright classrooms and updated office spaces. The Journalism Building itself was given new life through a major renovation and addition under the supervision of Jerry M. Campbell and Associates. The two-year project required administration, staff and classrooms to move elsewhere but would, according to the dean, end the distinction of having the only three-story building on campus that leaked on the first floor.
The renovation of the Journalism Building was completed in 2004, returning the Manship School of Mass Communication to a structure that fused original architectural elements with 21st century, state-of-the-art media technology. Original hardwood floors and crown moldings were uncovered and restored; carved wooden doors similar to originals were installed, and a rotunda was reconstructed, its first reappearance since the building was moved in 1934.
In 2007, the school began overseeing LSU Student Media, which includes the daily newspaper, television and radio stations and the university student magazine.
Jerry Ceppos, a veteran newspaper editor and dean, professor and chair of journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, took over as dean of the school in 2011.
“I’m tremendously flattered to be the dean during this 100th year of journalism education at LSU,” he said. “The year is a grand reminder that the enduring values of mass communication never will change – but everything else, such as the devices we use to communicate and the ways we get information – will change again and again and again.”
Manship School alumni have worked for some of the most prestigious news outlets in the country and won five Pulitzer Prizes and four Emmy Awards. Notable alumni include Lance Frank, publicist for the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley; Ginger Gibson, reporter for Politico; Amy Brittan, investigative reporter for the Washington Post; Matt Mascona, local sports radio host; Donna Dees, vice president for communications at CBS’ Inside Edition; Charlotte T. Schexnayder, who served seven terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives and was the first female president of the National Newspaper Association; Louisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne; East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor/President Kip Holden; Mark Grant, director, CBS Sports; Paul Dietzel Jr., who owns the Anedot fundraising company and is currently running for Louisiana’s sixth congressional district; nationally syndicated film critic Rex Reed; Harry J. Middleton, former speechwriter for President Lyndon B. Johnson; Jere Longman, sportswriter for the New York Times; Kelly Kissel, Associated Press news editor for Arkansas and Oklahoma; and Dong-mei Zhang, executive director of corporate communicatiosn for Goldman, Sachs & Co. in Hong Kong.
Thoughts and ideas can be expressed in many forms, but even as the concept of mass communication expands and evolves year-to-year, and even month-to-month, one concept has always remained essential: the written word.
Writing, be it with ink to paper or pixels on a screen, remains the backbone of the Manship School and its programs. News features, television scripts, social media, advertising copy – none of them are possible without a command of language and the ability to harness it in a way that grabs an audience’s attention.
“I maintained at the beginning, and still do, that the background to all communication is good writing,” said Hamilton. “If you don’t know how to write, you cannot be a good communicator.”
In the beginning, that also meant that all students focused not just on writing, but learning to do it for different specializations as well.
“I took my first class in public relations writing, but each week we wrote in a different style,” said Dondalyn Breaux, a junior from New Orleans. “News stories, press releases, scripts, we had to try them all, and now I feel comfortable working in all of those mediums.”
“Immediately, you’re immersed in it,” added Carley Wahlborg, a senior specializing in public relations. “We’re constantly pushed and tested and encouraged to do better.”
It’s an emphasis that many students say helps them far beyond their writing and communications courses in the school.
“I find that it’s helped me so much beyond what I do here in the school,” said Wahlborg. “I’m not afraid of essays, I’m not afraid to express myself through words in any other class.”
“When written communication is such a key, that never leaves you,” said Ryan Martin, a 2012 graduate currently enrolled in Harvard Law School. “Through written class assignments or the analysis and critique of the writings of others, effective written communication was fundamental in every class, and carried over in every student organization and internships and it’s still with me today.”
“I speak to the freshmen and sophomores in our basic media-writing class each semester,” said Ceppos. “And I always tell them that they will be in an amazing minority if they stick with the Manship School, because they’ll be able to communicate. I’m not sure that they fully understand just how rare that talent is today.”
It’s a focus that the school continues to stress, even as the world around it continues to focus on brevity, be it sound bites or even 140-character tweets.
“That responsibility doesn’t change as content moves onto digital platforms,” said Associate Professor Lance Porter. “In fact, writing with brevity becomes even more of a challenge on certain platforms like Twitter. What has changed is that all of our disciplines have to write strategically and with promotion in mind. How should they write something to increase the chances their content will get shared? However, all of our areas have been taught how to write good headlines for 100 years now. The skill sets aren’t that different. The stakes are just higher now.”
“I enjoy that challenge,” Mann said. “You really have to distill who you are, and what you’re trying to get across to people quickly. It pushes you to change how you think and how you teach, and that’s exhilarating.”
But these new media and new technology will never come before that backbone.
“It doesn’t matter how well you can use the equipment, or how many bells and whistles you can add if you can’t craft a story,” said Day.
Staying Ahead of the Cutting Edge
The ways that people process and receive information change year to year, and even month to month in the digital age, and that means that any mass communication school has to not only stay ahead of the changing trends in the way that information is spread, they have to see those changes coming.
The Manship School’s Digital Media Initiative, or DMI, is addressing these monumental changes to the communications field by taking steps to establish the Manship School as a digital leader. Courses are finding more and more ways to incorporate digital media, including social outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, into everything they do.
“It keeps changing and we’re constantly experimenting and setting the tone,” said Wahlborg. “And as I get out into the working world and encounter professionals, I see them coming to me and other students for our opinion.”
“We are dealing with the largest change in history for the media industry,” said Porter, the director of the DMI. “Mobile technology is the fastest growing technology ever, greatly outpacing even the Internet. We’ve spent the last few years looking at what our academic peers are doing as well as traveling to both coasts and DC to meet with top industry representatives to properly position ourselves.”
“We asked a simple question to everyone from Google to the New York Times: ‘What do you think the future holds, and how can we best prepare our students for that future?’” Porter added. “Amazingly enough, we were able to narrow things down to a ‘top-10′ list of things we need to accomplish to stay on top, and we’ve made significant progress in changing our current courses, adding new courses, hiring new faculty with digital expertise and adding new degrees.”
Digitial media is now involved in every specialization within the Manship School: journalism, broadcasting, advertising and political communication.
“Our advertising curriculum is now the only program in the country where students can specialize in digital advertising,” said Porter. “We are also part of LSU’s digital media minor program and will participate in the digital media graduate program launching next fall. Probably one of our biggest changes was to put digital media in the core with our new course, digital brands, which I am in my third semester of teaching.”
The push hasn’t just changed how courses are taught, but even the everyday interaction between students and faculty. Twitter direct messages and other forms of instant messaging now add to the typical emails, phone calls and office hours.
“It just makes things so much more responsive if you have a question outside of class, or have a problem,” said Breaux. “And you can form more of a relationship with your professor.”
The DMI is also working to stay ahead of the changes in digital media, and see them coming through the extra-curricular, interdisciplinary group, known as the Create Lab.
“Students work with a real client to create a real digital solution to an actual problem,” Porter explained.
Create Lab involves students from the Manship School as well as undergraduate and graduate students from business, psychology, computer engineering, computer science, graphic design and landscape architecture. Porter explains that the lab’s extra-curricular nature allows latitude to really seek out and work on long-term solutions without being bound to the time-frame of a particular class.
“Students can get their hands dirty with technology,” Porter said. “Last year, we worked with the New Orleans Times-Picayune in the wake of their change to a primarily digital mode of distribution. We are continuing to work with them this year.”
This ever-expanding digital media world also brings opportunities for research and new ways to teach old lessons, something Day has emphasized in his Media Ethics courses.
“In some ways, it’s more challenging,” said Day. “But the basic issues – truth, privacy, the distribution of intellectual privacy – those are still the same, whether they come up for a newspaper, a website, Twitter, what have you.”
“Students have to know how to use the technology,” Mann said. “But do they have a philosophy that helps them understand it and use it an ethical, effective and consistent way? That’s what I hope we teach here.”
The DMI doesn’t just push the students in new directions, but even the faculty.
“Students are true digital natives, and I often learn something from them on what the latest and greatest is,” said Porter. “I’ve been involved with digital media for 18 years, and I still learn something new every day, often from my students.”
Besides the newest trends in technology, the Manship School is also on the forefront of the ever-increasing blend between media and public policy through its Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs.
The Reilly Center’s mission is to generate thoughtful programs, dialogue and research about mass communication and its many faceted relationships with social, economic and political issues. Evident in everything the center does is its commitment to strengthen and advance the Manship School’s national leadership in media and politics.
The center’s agenda is diverse and fluid – from the annual John Breaux Symposium – which brings in national experts to discuss a topic that has received little or no attention – to conducting the annual Louisiana Survey, a vital resource for policymakers which tracks advancements and regressions of citizen attitudes about state services.
It was this concentration that helped to attract Ceppos to the school.
“I was intrigued – and still am – with the school’s emphasis on tying media and public affairs together,” he said. “I was particularly interested in our political-communication sequence, which doesn’t exist in any other school of mass communication. The Reilly Center, and the Public Policy Research Lab, provide such a range of research opportunities for faculty and graduate students.”
“What’s amazed me is the number of aspiring political journalists who major in political communication, not journalism,” Mann explained. “They take journalism courses and write for the Reveille and do all the journalism internships, but they understand the need to learn as much as possible about how politics really works.”
Senior Andrea Gallo of Lafayette is one such student.
“It’s helped me tremendously as a reporter,” she said. “I understand how press secretaries operate, how messages are crafted, how certain events are framed around important issues.”
Ceppos notes that he would like this model to extend, eventually, to a one-semester program in Washington, that could be open to the entire campus, not just Manship School Students.
“It would include coursework as well as an internship. The main focus would be helping students understand how Washington works.”
In Their Own Words
Alumni, faculty and current students all have their own individual thoughts on the Manship School to share.
“It’s a time to stop and reflect on where we’ve come from and how much the media business has changed. And it’s humbling to think that in just a few years, the internet and social media have transformed the media landscape. It’s challenging and exciting to be working at a school, learning along with my students, during these times of great technological change. I’ve had to reinvent myself several times since I’ve been here and I’m thankful to be in a place that allows – in fact, encourages – me to do that.” – Robert Mann
“I’m in my ninth year here, and I’m proud to be part of LSU’s great tradition. I think there has never been a greater or more exciting time in history to either study or teach mass communication. We are on the cusp of something great, and these students are going to be the ones to write that future. The opportunities are endless. How cool is that?” – Lance Porter
“The opportunities and doors that are opened through the Manship School are second to none. The amazing professors and staff make for a learning environment unlike any other.” – Korey Ryder
“The legacy of Manship is source of pride, empowerment and inspiration for all alumni, enrollees and aspiring students. While it seemed intangible while I was a student, I’ve definitely felt this truth as I’ve watched my former colleagues succeed, maintained contact with former professors and charted my own path.” – Ryan Martin
“I am so happy to be a Manship student at the 100th anniversary of the journalism program. I’ve always loved this school, and just to be able to celebrate its accomplishments and its incredible alumni, our Manship and Reveille ancestors, as I like to call them, is a treat. The school has done so much for me – I got to cover the Iowa caucuses when I was 19 years old, my professors have directly influenced me obtaining internships based on their connections and I feel like the people at the school genuinely care about me. It’s wonderful to gather with other people who also have such a deep appreciation for the Manship School and hear their stories.” – Andrea Gallo
“They help us become better communicators and give us opportunities to grow academically, personally and professionally.” – Hannah McLain
“I’m proud to be an alum and now faculty member of the Manship School. My time as a graduate student at the Manship School changed the direction of my career and ultimately led me to academia. I am forever grateful to be part of the Manship School family. It’s a joy to take part in the centennial events and celebrate 100 years of journalism education at LSU.” – Nicole Dahmen, associate professor
“The Manship School has opened my mind to so many possibilities for the future. The amazing staff create a nurturing environment for growth and success. I love my school and couldn’t have picked a better major.” – Kristin White
“I am proud to be an alumna of the Manship School of Mass Communication at LSU. The superb instruction and earnest counsel from my professors lasted long after I graduated and has proven invaluable in my career – from serving as the spokesperson of a presidential campaign to navigating Congress. I was captivated by the teaching of individuals who have actually worked in this field and who assured me that my dreams were totally attainable. At Manship, it wasn’t simply memorizing communications theories. It was transforming education into real, applicable skills that would foster a truly rewarding career.” – Ellen Carmichael, press secretary, U.S. House of Representatives
“The Manship School of Mass Communication will always hold a special place in my heart; I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. As an undergraduate, I was a news-editorial journalism major and had some of the best classes and best teachers that I’ve ever had in my life. After graduation, I went straight into graduate school as a public relations major at Manship. The combination of journalism and PR has proven to be invaluable to me in my profession. Many years later, I was asked to teach at the Manship School as an adjunct faculty member, and that invitation was one of the biggest honors of my career.” – Kristine Calongne, assistant vice chancellor for communications, LSU
“The Manship School gave me the tools I needed to be a better political reporter. As a political communications major, I was able to learn not just how to write news stories, but how to think politically. How the process works. That knowledge has helped me in everything from covering a presidential campaign to a state legislature to Congress. More importantly, The Daily Reveille was like a four-year internship. Without the Reveille, I can’t imagine how I would have ever broken into daily reporting. It was trial by fire and an indispensable experience.” – Ginger Gibson, congressional reporter for Politico magazine
“I am proud to go to a school and participate in a program of excellence. Every day, I am reminded of how lucky I am and what a great education I’m getting.” – Malena Moreau