William Allen White “Sage of Emporia”

During this time of revolutionary change, we need journalists as never before. Our very democracy is predicated on the once-radical notion that the American people are capable of governing themselves. But how can we if we’re not informed? We need accurate facts and critical thinking skills to process them. We need our world to be put in context. We need wisdom and understanding.

This joint letter comes from members of the Wichita State University Elliott School of Communication Advisory Boardas a response to the Kansas State Department of Education’s recent decision to cut off funding to high-school journalism and yearbook courses.We take issue with the department’s reasoning that these programs don’t lead to high-demand careers.

Our board serves as a case in point. Our members represent a broad range of communication professions: publishers, editors, general managers, corporate vice presidents, managing partners, directors of public affairs, program officers and public information officers. We work in newspapers large and small, TV, radio, government, corporate America and ad agencies.

Many of us trained as journalists. And we all view ethics-based, high-quality journalism as vital to our community, state, nation and world. Is journalism a profession in transition? Yes. As are manufacturing, education, finance, agriculture, healthcare, retail and almost anything else you can think of. New technologies allow us to reinvent ourselves while global pressures demand we do so. Core skills demanded by our current information age include research, synthesis, writing and message production.

Good reporters don’t do our thinking, but they prod us to think. They unearth the unknown. Shine light into dark corners. The Fourth Estate arms us with information critical for a wise electorate, savvy business dealings and sound investing. A strong and vibrant press was deemed so essential by our Founding Fathers they gave it special protections under the U.S. Constitution. In a world that bombards us with messages every waking moment of our day, we seek out trusted journalistic sources.

To the State Department of Education we say, restore this critical funding to our high schools, encouraging our youngest journalists. Now.

*Note, a version of this letter appeared in the Oct. 12 issue of The Wichita Eagle.

By Deanna Harms, Wichita State University Elliott School of Communication Advisory Board Chair and Greteman Group EVP, and board members Tammy Allen, VP Marketing & Communications, Allen Gibbs & Houlik; Susan Armstrong, President/CEO Armstrong Shank Advertising; Joan Barrett, President/GM KWCH-TV/KSCW-TV; Jarrod Bartlett, Director of Communication, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems; Tom Bertels, Managing Partner, Sullivan Higdon Sink; Tami Bradley, Managing Partner, Bothner & Bradley; Al Buch, Retired, GM KSNW-TV; Sherry Chisenhall, VP News, The Wichita Eagle; Kent Cornish, Executive Director, Kansas Association of Broadcasters; Tom Glade, GM/VP for Marketing, Clear Channel Radio Group; Bonita Gooch, Editor-in-Chief, Community Voice; Nancy Martin, COO Emergency Services, HCA Wesley; Eric McCart, GM, Journal Broadcast Group; Mark McCormick, Director of Communications, Kansas Leadership Center; VP Communication, Kansas Health Foundation; Steve Randa, Managing Partner, Jajo; Bill Roy, Editor, Wichita Business Journal; Dave Seaton, Editor and Publisher, Winfield Daily Courier; Lynn Stephan, Retired, Stephan Advertising Agency; Dan Wall, GM, KAKE-TV; Van Williams, Spokesman, City of Wichita; Jackie Wise, VP/GM, Entercom Radio; Carter Zerbe, Retired, Publisher, Augusta Daily Gazette