December 12, 2013


Texas A&M will bring its major in journalism back next fall, the school reported on its website Monday. The decision was announced after approval Monday from the faculty senate.

According to the school: “It will be a small, rigorous program limited to 25 entering freshmen per year.” Students will also have to pursue two minors.


Ten years ago, True Brown was a junior pursuing a journalism major and the editor of the student newspaper. He helped start a petition opposing ending the major and a web site dedicated to preserving the program. At the time, the student newspaper, The Battalion, ran a blank page with just these words: “THE TEXAS A&M ADMINISTRATION’S VISION OF JOURNALISM.”

According to a 2003 story from the Student Press Law Center, the school said it stopped offering the major because it couldn’t afford extra professors to keep the program going.

Like many students who wanted to study journalism and stay at A&M, Brown transferred to the agriculture school, where he got his degree in agriculture communications, with many of the same classes from the journalism program.

Brown, now a fundraiser for the liberal-arts college at A&M, worked for the previous nine years as a writer and designer for the sports magazine put out by the 12th Man Foundation, an athletic booster club for the school. Losing the major didn’t hurt him, he said in a phone interview, but added that he knew many high-school seniors 10 years ago who chose other schools.

“I still think that A&M missed almost a full generation of good students who could be telling the stories,” Brown said.

Sue Owen agreed. She graduated from A&M in 1994, before the major was cut, and now is a PolitiFact Texas reporter for the Austin American-Statesman. Owen said in a phone interview that over the years she’s heard many stories of aspiring journalists who wanted to attend A&M but choose to go somewhere where they could pursue a journalism major.

“I think we lost some really top-flight students during those years,” she said. “And I’m hoping we can pull them back in now.”

Owen previously worked with A&M director of journalism studies Dale Rice at the Statesman and said Rice knows the difference between book learning and teaching students to file stories on deadline. Under his leadership, Owen said, students in the program will be able to produce news across several platforms.

In a story by David Norris for KBTX-TV, Rice said the school’s minor in journalism had grown in popularity, with enrollment rising from less than 20 students to more than 80 during the past five years.

The program will be print-journalism based, with no classes in broadcast journalism offered. Rice said the school plans to teach traditional print journalism along with the developing web-based media.

“So that we teach the standard forms of journalism, like newspaper and magazine,” said Rice. “But we also enhance that significantly with an understanding and experience with all sorts of social media, particularly blogging.”

During the past 10 years, students have been able to get minors in journalism, Owen pointed out, but Monday’s vote brings back the program’s major. And that’s proof, Brown said, that it’s an important program.

“I have been smiling ear to ear since I got the news earlier this week.”

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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