The Institutionalization of Photojournalism Education: Bringing the Blue-Apron Ghetto to American Schools of Journalism
Paddock, Stanton M.
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As journalism educators wrestle to keep programs up-to-date in an evolving news landscape, there is value in understanding how education in an early form of multimedia journalism — photography — came to be. Little attention has been paid to the intersection of journalism education and photojournalism. This subject furnishes a unique perspective on photojournalism’s professionalization. This dissertation examines the history of university-level photojournalism education in the early and mid 20th century by asking what influenced the creation, diffusion, and adoption of photojournalism pedagogy in American higher education and what the consequences were. Neo-institutional theory’s focus on legitimacy supports exploration of evolving organizational norms in photojournalism education. Contemporary writings on higher education, journalism education, and photojournalism reveal important environmental conditions. Shifting educational principles are tracked via records of journalism education groups. Analysis of textbooks elucidates evolving practices and opinions. Archival case studies of journalism programs at the University of Maryland and the University of Georgia provide detailed examples of evolving approaches to photojournalism education. Illuminated are deep-seated issues: the struggle for legitimacy, tension between practical skills and critical thinking, and the relationship between textual and visual journalism. Efforts to establish photojournalism education occurred well after the establishment of textual journalism education. Both faced similar challenges, including concerns about skill-based learning in higher education. But photojournalism education’s acceptance was initially hindered because it clashed with journalism education’s hard-won image as suitable in liberal arts institutions. Later, rapid expansion of interest in providing photojournalism courses promoted homogenization. The changing environment featured constant uncertainty. This perpetuated isomorphism in which the initial range of approaches narrowed and photojournalism offerings became more alike. This dissertation concludes that choices at both the local and national levels in photojournalism education were made to project outward legitimacy. The resulting curricula were not necessarily the best, most useful, efficient, or practical. Local factors — staffing, accreditation, location, mission, school type, and receptivity to innovation — were influential. Wider environmental factors also played a role as journalism education was institutionalized. Today, in facing the challenge of incorporating new reporting methods, journalism educators must recognize the wide variety of factors and influences that may be involved.