Deciding the future of Cal Poly journalism

September 19, 2010


I am 1973 graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. My undergraduate degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was in Journalism. I was born and raised in San Luis Obispo.

Even though I no longer live in California, because my professional life was significantly impacted in positive ways by my having studied in and graduated from the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Journalism Department, I have some strong opinions to express here.

My opinions are mine alone and as an adult (age 60), I accept responsibility for my opinions and for expressing them here on this website. I certainly do recognize that people will disagree with my opinions as expressed here on this website. I specifically invite anyone and everyone who may disagree with my expressed opinions here to post their own opinions right here on this website. This website is for uncensored and unedited discussion of all opinions regarding what to do with the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Journalism Department.

Anybody who is an alum of the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Journalism Department who presently is providing any financial support should consider immediately taking the following action: I recommend that any of you alums who are presently providing financial support to the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Journalism Department should stop that financial support immediately.

Just stop today. Do it now. Close your checkbooks. Stop any automatic transfers of funds. Close your wallet. Do it because it is important to send a message to the administrators at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Withholding your money will be a crystal clear message to send to the administrators at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

If you are giving money at the present time, I am recommend that you cease your financial support of the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Journalism Department because of the current activity at Cal Poly regarding the possible breaking up of what is presently an academic department into component parts of an existing academic department.

There is discussion going on at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to distribute or realign those component parts of an existing academic department into other existing academic departments. The major known as ”journalism” would still be called by that name even in if the component parts of the existing academic department are distributed or realigned into other existing academic departments. So, you will probably read quotes from representatives of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo about preserving ”journalism” at the university. is a URL where you can read the words of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo interim president Robert Glidden from remarks that he made on Friday, September 20, 2010 at a Retired Faculty Association luncheon.

Unless interim president Glidden was misquoted, his words should be taken very seriously. Assuming that he was not misquoted, what he said was that the existing Journalism Department is ”shrinking” and that because of this shrinkage, it is a good time to break up the department into its component parts and redistribute those parts elsewhere (and my best guess is that place would be within one or more existing academic departments of the College of Liberal Arts.)

If such a break-up and redistribution were to take place, as interim president Robert Glidden has said may take place before the end of 2010, then what all of us alums knew as the Journalism Department would no longer exist.

My informed speculation is that the Mustang Daily could become one component of the existing Graphic Communications Department instead of remaining within the Journalism Department where the daily newspaper exists now.

My personal opinion (having worked as a editor of the Mustang Daily during the 1970s) is that no matter how excellent the Graphic Communications Department certainly is today, moving the administration and curriculum of the Mustang Daily from the Journalism Department into the Graphic Communications Department would potentially be a very bad thing for Cal Poly students who are attending the university to get an education in the field of journalism.

If the Mustang Daily becomes part of the Graphic Communications Department, one could expect that the focus for the Mustang Daily could become (as the department name spells out) graphic communications instead of the focus being upon journalism. There are fundamental differences between the field of graphic communications and the field of journalism in the business world.

Even with all the revolutionary changes happening today (for example, legendary and old print newpaper companies have shifted to digital delivery of their product), the fundamental intellectual and business reasons for journalism have not changed at all.

It is reasonable to expect that all students (and their parents) should want a university where it is possible to get a high quality education and hands-on training in the field of journalism. Would Cal Poly San Luis Obispo continue to be that kind of university if this switch of the Mustang Daily is made to the Graphic Communications Department?

Think very carefully about this core question! Let me take this one step further and suggest that parents should carefully consider whether their students would be better off at some other California academic institution where journalism is journalism instead of being one component of the field of graphic communications.

And what will happen to KCPR? Where do the Cal Poly administrators think they would want to move KCPR? Perhaps KCPR would be moved into the Communication Studies Department?

If KCPR is moved to the Communication Studies Department, students and parents will want to take a very careful look at what kind of academic and professional preparation would the Communication Studies Department be able to provide Cal Poly students who want to participate in the university’s radio station.

In the business world, it is very easy to find many examples of what happens when there are ”new owners” who assume responsibility for existing infrastructure and products in print journalism, broadcast journalism, and new media journalism.

I urge you to please open your eyes and look around in the business world. Any university that hopes to remain professionally relevant and viable in the 21st Century (while keeping those desirable alumni dollars flowing in) needs administrators to work towards achieving minds that are open and aware of the realities of the business aspects of journalism.

Until there is a clear picture of what is going to happen to the existing Journalism Department, I recommend that financial support from alumni be halted immediately.

Until there is a clear picture of the next steps for the major, I recommend that parents of current and prospective Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Journalism students should pay very close attention to what the Cal Poly administrators are saying and what they are doing.

Cal Poly graduate Woody Goulart lives in Vienna, Virginia. He is the editor of Journalism Alumni Defense Initiative website.

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For a university that touts itself on learn by doing and producing workers for tomorrow, they sure have missed the mark on healthcare. Every ranking indicates healthcare jobs are seeing and will see the greatest future growth.

Is CalPoly training nurses, practitioners, rehab specialists, hospital administrators, gerontological specialists, clinical laboratory technologists, speech pathologists…?

My opinion: I couldn’t finish the piece because it was written so poorly. The stuttering repetition was like a club bashing my brains in. Thanks for that. It’s only pertinent because you say you graduated with a journo degree from the school, a degree which I assume focused on terse writing and it didn’t seem to do you any good.

I’d say bobTanner hit it on the head. If this is how Cal Poly teaches its grads to write, then maybe the department should be contracted.

Years ago, I was told that the Cal Poly administration rewards ‘compliance and not achievement.’ It is the only explanation for the placement and promotion of mediocrity in administrative ranks. With a new President this doesn’t have to be the case. ‘In search of excellence’ would be a nice replacement motto.

It’s no secret that Journalism as a degree or a profession is not very attractive today; that is, if you wish to be employed. The unconscionable thing is that Public Relations (which IMHO would be better placed in the School of Business) would also be eliminated. PR is the one real cash cow in the Communications/ Journalism world. What this means is that this is a degree with high student demand and good prospects for landing a good job!

I suspect what is happening to journalism and the movement of the Mustang Daily to another area is to provide greater administrative control (read censorship).

Before one thinks that having a high salary means that you have the best and the brightest, I believe that looking at some of the first level administrators proves otherwise. With the successful ‘replacement’ of the Dean of Engineering, I think another good place to start is in Liberal Arts. By the way, virtually all technical schools and 50 % of all universities have a neuroscience degree ( a marketable degree by the way). However, the Dean of Science and Math — I hear – is untroubled by the lack of technology in his polytechnic world. We don’t have the luxury of such provincial thinking, there are too many Cal Poly ‘graduates’ living at home and working in the fast food or housekeeping industries. If our students are going to make it in the world they need to be prepared to face it and we need the best to lead them.