The squabbling, though, began immediately. Two days after the university’s announcement, journalism school dean Paul Voakes told Denver-based Westword that “the first wave of headlines was somewhere in the range of premature to inaccurate.” In fact, most articles explained that closing the school is not a foregone conclusion and quoted university officials insisting that the intent of the “discontinue” process is to put the school in the vanguard of media education. Many commentators pushed back against these rosy assurances, however.

In an Inside Higher Education column, Michael Bugeja, director of the Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State University, wrote that “perhaps unintentionally, Voakes is harming otherwise thriving journalism programs by claiming his school is on the cutting edge instead of the chopping block.”

Tim McGuire, the Frank Russell Chair for the Business of Journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, wrote on his blog: “Voakes can downplay what’s happening all he wants, but I not-so-boldly predict that at the end of the committee process mandated by the chancellor there will not be anything most of us would recognize as a journalism department.”

When the exploratory committee looking into the creation of a new school held an open forum in late October to discuss options for a future program, it faced a room full of unhappy J-school faculty and students, the Daily Camera in Boulder reported. Committee chairman Merrill Lessley told them that while the new initiative is still unclear, the program will not provide students with a traditional journalism education.

That statement is sure to upset those who think that placing journalism under the tent of “information, communication and technology” risks sacrificing values like accuracy, context, and clarity.

A university task force that outlined a broad vision for the new information school cited more than thirty “schools/colleges of computing/technology” that have been created nationwide. It included the University of California, Berkeley, but ignored the fact that that university has kept its highly esteemed Graduate School of Journalism intact.

“[D]oes innovation require blowing something up, as Colorado is apparently contemplating?” McGuire asked. It’s a good question. In answering it, the committee should keep in mind that no matter the medium, deep reporting and clear writing will always be the soul of the best journalism. According to the Daily Camera, the university has discontinued seventeen degree programs since the late 1990s, but closing an entire school would be “unprecedented.” It could also be tragic, if not handled carefully.


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Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.