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Journalism minor again available at UMD

Curriculum administrators at UMD have performed an about face on their decision a few years ago to eliminate the journalism minor. This year, they added back the course offerings for a journalism minor and are in the process of a nationwide searc...

Curriculum administrators at UMD have performed an about face on their decision a few years ago to eliminate the journalism minor.
This year, they added back the course offerings for a journalism minor and are in the process of a nationwide search for a tenure-track journalism professor. Until the new position is filled, composition instructor Catherine Winter, who has been a journalist in radio and print, is teaching some of the classes.
"The Reporting I class filled, and the Media Law class filled," Winter said. "So obviously, there is great interest in it. Every day I have a student come by and ask me, 'What are the classes? What can I take.'"
Linda Krug, dean of the college of liberal arts, says student interest in the journalism minor was a big reason for their decision to add it back. "There's a demand for it," Krug said. "Students have been asking about it; folks in the community have been asking about it. The chancellor made it possible. She, of course, hears things. The pressure from the students comes upward, and pressure from community tends to come down through her. We had tried to fill the gap with a minor in professional writing and communication. That's a huge minor, and there are a lot of students in it, but it's not the same as journalism."
Alison Jorgensen, of Brainerd, discovered she had a flair for reporting when she worked on her high school newspaper. "Originally, when I was still in high school and deciding where I wanted to go to school, I was looking into journalism programs," Jorgensen said. "I really wanted to go to school in Duluth, and I was disheartened to find out there was no journalism program here."
Now that journalism has been added back to the list of minors offered at UMD, Jorgensen sees it as a chance to fulfill her life's dream. "I'm happy about it, excited about it," she said. "I came here to major in business, and last year I found out they had a journalism minor. I just want to be a reporter. My dream someday is to become the editor of a magazine."
Jorgensen is already taking steps toward the dream by serving as one of the news editors of the campus newspaper.
Nick Schmidt, a junior from Fergus Falls, came to UMD before they dropped the journalism minor. He had been on track to become a reporter, fulfilling the freshman requirements for a journalism minor, but then, in his sophomore year, the rug was pulled out from under him. This year, he's glad it's back. "I kind of lucked out," he said. "I'm glad they did that."
Schmidt says being a reporter is a chance to communicate with the masses. "You can produce a lot of things, get a lot of things out there, and you can see your name in the paper and have a lot of people reading it," he said. "I think that's what appeals to a lot of people. That's what appeals to me -- being able to communicate to so many people."
Students who minor in journalism often are English or communication majors. But a journalism minor also works well with political science, economics and business majors. "When we had it before it was a very popular minor program," Krug said. "When we phased it out, we were constantly getting people asking for it, wanting to come here to take that journalism program."
For Nick Schmidt, the fun part of being a reporter is learning new things about new people. "Getting a story -- it's a fun process," he said. "Talking to people who normally wouldn't talk to you. I just like hearing people's stories. People have so many things they want to say, and a lot of times they're never heard. Finding those people and talking to them, I think that's really fun and interesting."
Winters has about 15 students in her reporting class. Because of the Internet, there are more possibilities for journalists these days, she said.
"There's this vast empty thing that needs content. Journalists can be content providers. They can write for online news services or provide content in other ways. If you have some skills and ability with writing, that's going to be a very marketable commodity. The folks who are doing the minor are interested in being journalists or editors as opposed to public relations."

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