State of Discipline

State of the Field Report Analysis

Dr. Charles C. Self
Past President, AEJMC
University of Oklahoma
March 2009

“State of the Field/Discipline” reports by AEJMC division, interest groups and commissions paint a vivid picture of the needs of the association as it moves to implement eight “strategic directions” approved by the membership last summer, according to a recent analysis of the themes emerging from those reports.

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication has conducted a Strategic Planning Process over the last two years. The effort began in the fall of 2007. It involved a multipronged effort to collect data about the organization. The process included a survey of members; meetings of the AEJMC Board, representatives of the 17 divisions, 10 interest groups and two commissions; and open meetings with members. A strategic planning team has collected documents and reports written by committees and task forces in recent years.

The outcome was a proposal for eight “Strategic Directions” for AEJMC. The membership approved the eight strategic directions at AEJMC’s summer convention in Chicago in 2008.

Documents examined included a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis, a survey of members, and a literature review.

As part of the data collection process, the AEJMC president asked each of the divisions, interest groups, and commissions to prepare separate five-page analyses of the “State of the Field/Discipline” from the point of view of the members of each division, interest group, or commission. Those reports were completed in 2008 for use in implementing the Strategic Plan. A total of 26 reports were submitted (see the links to each report.)


The Strategic Design Implementation Team and AEJMC Past President Charles C. Self examined the reports and identified 99 themes that emerged from the 26 reports. Each theme was labeled with a keyword to an area of concern. Altogether, 13 areas of concern emerged.

The most common areas of concern were “making an impact on the field” (mentioned 20 times), “curriculum issues” (mentioned 18 times), and “changing media technologies” (mentioned 17 times).

The next most common areas of concern were “the need for new theoretical models” (mentioned 10 times), “division scholarship not adequately recognized” (mentioned seven times), “pride in quality scholarship” (mentioned six times), and “need for new services” such as new programming or new journals (mentioned six times).

Other concerns included “internationalization and globalization,” “financial worries,” “diversity and disenfranchisement,” “ethics,” and “support for high school journalism.”

The eight strategic directions passed by the AEJMC membership in Chicago address these areas of concern. For example, four strategic directions are designed to increase impact. And the scholarship center envisioned in the strategic plan should provide innovation to deal with technology change, curriculum issues, and theory development. While the entire strategic planning process should address all of these concerns, this link demonstrates how the keywords for each area of concern might be placed under the strategic directions that should address those concerns.


The “State of the Discipline/Field” reports reflect the anxieties of a discipline and a field in transition. Concerns in these reports about changing technologies raised concerns about how we teach. Those concerns included both suggestions that we need to adapt the content of our courses to the new realities of the fields we discuss and suggestions that we exercise care not to neglect the fundamentals. Many of the reports call for intense examinations of what we teach and how we teach.

The emphasis upon change also reinforced a powerful theme that ran through most of the reports: the need for AEJMC to exert leadership. Many of the reports raised questions about how much impact the association is having on the field during this time of change. Others called for more work toward new theories in our disciplines to address the changes we are seeing.

The reports also reflect concerns among some that their areas were not fully appreciated within AEJMC and by the fields they study. But several of the reports emphasized that the quality of the work being done was outstanding and appropriate with what is going on across communication education.

There were suggestions for new services, journals, and scholarship. The reports also raised questions about globalization, diversity, ethics, and funding. Some were worried about the adequacy of attention to high school education.

In general, the issues raised in these reports fleshed out and made specific earlier findings of the environmental scan done by the association itself. The eight strategic directions seem to be an appropriate response to the concerns raised. The initial emphasis by the Strategic Design Implementation Team on making “AEJMC the primary resource for scholarship in our field” and “strengthen(ing) our identity, image and influence” are focused on addressing the number one concern reflected in these reports about whether we are having an impact on the fields we study.

Of course, in order to have that impact, the other strategic objectives must help the association harness scholarship, pedagogy, and research to deal with the curriculum and technology concerns that are also central to these reports. This seems to imply more services, more outreach, more funding, and more work to deal with some of the specific questions of globalization, diversity, and ethics, at all levels of journalism education.

It is certainly clear in these reports that the divisions, interest groups, and commissions are ready for innovation to accomplish those goals.

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