Closing Emory’s journalism program ‘is an unwise decision’

Emory journalism program director Hank Klibanoff — a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution managing editor — tells students that closing the journalism program “is an unwise decision” and that since its formation in 1996, the program “has consistently produced some of nation’s most respected journalists and citizens of the world, who continue to bring great honor to Emory University.”

* Emory faculty and students respond to proposed program cuts (
* Earlier: Emory dean decides to close journalism program in two years (AP via
* Earlier: Emory downsizes departments, phases out programs (

Klibanoff’s letter to students:

To: Emory Journalism Program students
From: Hank Klibanoff, director of the Journalism Program on behalf of senior lecturer and former director Sheila Tefft; lecturer Sissel McCarthy; and senior lecturer David Armstrong

Re: Emory College decision to close the Journalism Program

Date: Sept. 14, 2012

I am writing on behalf of the Journalism Program faculty to express our profound sadness, disappointment and astonishment that Emory College has decided to close its Journalism Program in two years. Dean Robin Forman announced the closing of Journalism and other programs, departments and institutes this afternoon.

This is an unwise decision. The Journalism Program, since it was created in 1996, has consistently produced some of nation’s most respected journalists and citizens of the world, who continue to bring great honor to Emory University. This surprise announcement catches us in the middle of a growth spurt: Our enrollment has been steadily rising in recent years and is now nearly 160 students, more than a third of them co-majors and minors. This semester, nearly every class is full and had to turn students away. /CONTINUES

The program will continue this year and next year so that students who are Journalism co-majors and minors can complete their courses and internship requirements. The faculty is staying on and is committed to continuing to offer the high-quality courses and experiences that have been the hallmark of this popular program since 1996. I believe some courses we teach will continue to exist beyond the two year time-frame the Dean has set, but they will not be part of a Journalism Program or co-major.

The faculty is discussing how the Dean’s decision will affect course offerings after this semester. It seems certain we will reduce or eliminate the introductory course, JRNL 201, after this semester, and we hope to convert those classes into expanded opportunities for co-majors and minors to get core and elective courses.
We encourage every co-major and minor to meet with your advisor as soon as possible so we can discuss what courses and internship hours you need to finish your work. To the extent we can, we will try to build our curriculum for this Spring and next year around those needs.

I wish I had a good explanation for this decision, or how it was reached. As recently as mid-August, discussions in the Dean’s office about Journalism were focused on which department might house the Journalism Program; there was no discussion about closing the program.

The Dean told me the decision on Thursday afternoon. In our meeting, he acknowledged the program’s important work in the past and present, its energy and its popularity among a growing number of students. He said the decision to close Journalism was very, very difficult for him.

The one rationale he provided, other than the competition for resources he mentions in his letter, was that Journalism was viewed by many at Emory as a “pre-professional program” and therefore as “not an easy fit” in a liberal arts environment. I am not sure why preparing our students to be critical thinkers, professional journalists and better-informed citizens, as we do, carries a negative connotation. We’re proud of what we are and of the students who have come out of our program. In any case, it’s unclear to me why we didn’t have a discussion on that, even a debate, before the decision was made to close the program.

Though I disagree with this decision, I am personally impressed by Dean Forman and believe Emory College is well-served by him. He’s committed to maintaining and expanding Emory’s reputation for excellence. We disagree only on whether Journalism should be part of that going forward.

The Journalism faculty remains fully committed to its students. You are the reason we are here, and we will be available in the coming days and weeks to discuss this decision with you.