The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UI J-school adapts content to increased PR interest

Tom Jorgensen
The University of Iowa Campus looking west from Old Capitol and the Pentacrest.

In the midst of strong student interest in Public Relations and Strategic Communications, one college department plans on adapting and shaping current curriculum in efforts to meet student demand and needs.

The University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication plans to offer a content marketing class, digital branding class, in addition to another strategic communication campaign course that will focus on public advocacy.

The change comes in light of a changing media and communications industry that offers students a variety of classes to pick and choose from than ever before.

Without exact hard numbers, the school’s Director David Ryfe estimated as much as 70 percent of students are now regularly interested in a career in Strategic Communications, compared to Journalism.

“The field has exploded so that the boundaries between public relations, advertising, and journalism… They’ve all blurred,” he said. “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.”

While a surge of students are showing more interest in public relations and strategic communications, Ryfe said, a “keen interest in journalism is low” among UI students, and is realistically on a decline.

UI Journalism professor Daniel Lathrop said various reasons influence this trend such as the growth of the size of the school, a widening gap and growing imbalance of students becoming interested in pursing other fields like public relations, rather than strictly careers in journalism.

“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,” Lathrop said. “But I also think it’s a healthy thing to keep public relations and journalism in the same school.”

In attempt to continually shape and enhance curriculum, Ryfe said, the school is planning to add new courses in the next coming years by integrating curriculum into a relevant foundation by offering more courses that will help students possess needed skills to help keep up with a rapid paced media world.

New courses being offered are classes such as social media marketing and brand development, which have seen popularity among SJMC students, including an upper-level Strategic Communication course. A third section was added for the course next fall semester because of such high demand and long waitlists.

“Students are speaking with their feet, enrolling in more of classes like social media marketing than narrowly journalistic classes,” Ryfe said.

Ryfe said the School’s flexible structure allows students to freely enroll in all types of classes without a mandated track, a requirement that does not need to be met under UI-SJMC’s curriculum.

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