The Chicago Tribune published a story this week that shocked the journalism education community: Northwestern’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications would allow its accreditation to lapse. The review, conducted by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, didn’t help the school, Dean Bradley Hamm told the Tribune.
“We just don’t find that the review provides us with anything beyond what we already know today,” he said. “It’s relatively superficial, extremely time-consuming and doesn’t lead us to a goal of significant improvement. It’s sort of a low bar.”
This year, 111 programs are ACEJMC accredited. The process involves a thorough self-study by the school itself, evaluating its program according to nine standards that range from curriculum to resources to the latest bedevilment for many schools, assessment. A site visit by an ACEJMC committee follows; evaluators tour facilities and interview students, faculty, and staff at each school. Each spring, the schools under review (a six-year cycle) learn their fate.
Medill opted out, and reaction — from Northwestern students and alumni, journalism educators, and journalists themselves — skittered across social media. Supporters of Medill’s choice bemoaned the cumbersome accreditation process, while others said accreditation served as a seal of approval for employers and, perhaps most importantly, tuition-paying parents. We compiled early reaction to the news that is dominating the end of this academic year.
Aileen Gallagher, MediaShift’s education editor, is an associate professor of magazine journalism at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications.