Questions and Answers for Medill's Name Change
Q&A with Dean John Lavine
Why the name change now?
This is a discussion that has been going on for a few years. Some pointed out the school was missing a large opportunity to represent to the world everything that we really are. It has also been an issue for Medill Integrated Marketing Communications students that the name of the school did not recognize their education and they felt marginalized.
I raised the issue with faculty several years ago after I became Dean and a committee began to discuss alternatives. But at the time we were also undertaking major curricular changes, starting a school in Qatar and hiring many new faculty and the discussions were put on hold. Last year, we began talking about it again at faculty meetings. It was clear that there is great pride in Medill, in Journalism and in IMC and that faculty have bold ideas for the Medill of the future and new media programs.
I also spoke with groups of students and alumni and with our Board of Advisers to gather their impressions and help inform the discussions. After the faculty vote, which was strongly in favor of the name change, I spoke with fellow deans at Northwestern, the Provost and President and then wrote a proposal to the Board of Trustees.
Can you explain “Integrated Marketing Communications” and how it differs from “marketing communications”?
Marketing Communications typically refers to specialized skills and functions such as advertising, public relations, direct/interactive marketing, search marketing and social marketing. Integrated Marketing Communications is a unified, strategic approach. It is data-driven and based on understanding customers/stakeholders. Practitioners use that insight to plan, manage and measure all marketing contacts -- such as those mentioned above -- that companies have with their customers. IMC also connects with other aspects of an organization such as finance, management and operations.
This is what makes Medill unique -- we emphasize the integration piece, as well as the building blocks of marketing communications.
Medill was called “The Medill School of Journalism” for practically all its life. Does the new name mean Journalism is being de-emphasized? Do you think Journalism itself is in decline?
No to both. We continue to have robust undergraduate and graduate journalism programs, and locations in Evanston, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Qatar. We have added classes and specialties to the journalism curricula – such as investigative, national security and documentary journalism courses, and a sequence in interactive publishing. We have added many Journalism faculty in the last few years in such fields as investigative, database, public affairs, multimedia, interactive and documentary journalism, digital strategy and audience insight.
No one could dispute that journalism in the U.S. has gone through tough times recently, due to the digital revolution that disrupted the business model of mainstream media and, then, the recession. But mainstream media haven’t disappeared. They’ve slimmed down, regrouped, reinvested in digital ventures. Their profits aren’t as outrageous as they used to be, but most are profitable. Hiring is picking up again and there have been many new digital entrants. In the U.S. reasonable growth is forecast in these “traditional” professions through 2018 – about 13%. Where the jobs are, what journalists are expected to do and how long they stay with an employer -- it’s definitely a different picture from, say, 10 years ago but it’s not one of doom and gloom. In many countries outside the U.S., it is booming.
The other thing to look at is whether the need for what journalists do – provide credible, accurate, engaging work that helps people make better decisions and understand an increasing complex world -- is declining among consumers and citizens. I don’t see evidence of that; just the opposite. The world will continue to grow in complexity and the need for what Medill students do will increase, not decline.
Isn’t it odd for integrated marketing communications to be in a journalism school, or vice versa? Don’t they have different values? In fact, aren’t they often adversaries?
It is not strange for Medill, since the precursor of IMC – advertising – has been taught here since the school began. Nor is it strange for the academy. Many universities have schools of mass communications of which journalism, public relations, advertising and so on are divisions.
What we like about being in a school together is the opportunity for collaboration across disciplines, something that has assumed great importance in the academy. We share many interests – how to understand audiences, how to create effective, credible, high-quality messages and content, how to use existing and emerging media channels effectively. Journalists can learn a lot from marketing communicators about how to effectively market their work and how to understand the “consumers” of journalism. IMCers can learn effective storytelling from journalism. Medill Journalism students are able to take some IMC classes if they wish, and vice versa, and some clearly find this to be desirable.
The values of journalism and marketing communications are definitely are at odds sometimes. The job of a specialist in reputation management is to protect her client’s public image – her duty is to the client. The job of a reporter is to discover facts, warts and all – her duty is to the truth. But in the real world one encounters competing interests all the time. What better place and time to understand, experience and learn how to deal with that than in a professional educational setting?
Why is the word “Media” in the name?
Medill is all about media, from the days when print was the major game in town. Now digitization has revolutionized media, making it possible for every person, business, organization and entity of any kind to become a publisher or a medium – a means – by which information is shared and distributed. Our programs, existing and planned, are on those new media frontiers.
Our students are active in a broad range of media, from the on-campus Northwestern News Network, to the publicly-available news sites in Chicago and Washington, to the work they produce in partnership with major national news organizations. They create media products, from iPad magazines to apps to websites. We teach media management in conjunction with Kellogg School of Management. The Media Management Center is at Medill. Our faculty research the media and produce professional work for the media.
Again, it is a matter of wanting the name to recognize who we are and what we do.
The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications – isn’t that a long, cumbersome name to use?
We have used “Medill Northwestern University” as our primary reference for several years and will continue using that shortened form in a variety of places where it makes sense. Medill and Northwestern together are two powerhouse brands and we are proud of being with each other.
However, in those instances where the formal name is required, such as diplomas and listings of Northwestern’s schools, we will use the full name. Northwestern does require that each school have a formal name, that is, it must be a “School of” something.