The School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa is seeing more interest in strategic planning and public relations type courses and less interest in their true journalism ones. Because this is the case, the school started adding more of the classes their students want, taking the direction from them.
Some of the courses they’ve added recently or have plans to add in the near future include content marketing, digital branding, social media marketing, brand development, several strategic communication campaigns – one focusing on public advocacy, as well as other areas, with one of them an upper-level course.
The school has noticed a growing trend of students toward public relations and marketing rather than journalism over the last couple of years. But most students and faculty in the school still feel the fields are closely related enough to be in the same department.
Daniel Lathrop, one of the Journalism professors at UI, said, “We definitely have students who are choosing to pursue careers in public relations, maybe more than we’ve seen before. I think it’s been a gradual addition over time. But I also think it’s a healthy thing to keep public relations and journalism in the same school.”
The Director of the school, David Ryfe explained that the demand for such classes has exploded, with maybe as much as 70% of the students taking classes in the school wanting more PR and communication strategies classes than journalism ones. He said, “The field has exploded so that the boundaries between public relations, advertising, and journalism … They’ve all blurred. We’re moving where our students are moving. Such a large percentage of our students come to us with an interest in strategic communications. We’re seeing fewer and fewer students interested in journalism.”
Since many colleges have not had PR departments in the past, this trend likely will see other universities and schools adding more PR classes to their curriculum to meet the growing demand from students. That’s an outcome likely to improve the PR industry over the coming years as students move from classrooms to internships and jobs better prepared to do what the clients need.