Proposal for the Addition of a Journalism Concentration and Minor


To: CNU English Department

From:  Victoria Cagle

Subject: Proposal for the Addition of a Journalism Concentration and Minor

Date: May 27, 2016



The goal of this proposal is to recommend the addition of a Journalism concentration for the English and Communication majors and a minor open to everyone and Christopher Newport University.


Christopher Newport University used to have a Journalism concentration and minor, but President Trible cut the program in 2011 in order to reroute the money into more profitable programs.  I propose that CNU bring back the Journalism concentration and minor if the student response is positive.  An ethnographic approach would be best to assess the level of student interest in the creative/revival of the Journalism program and in specific previously-offered Journalism courses.  The research would assess the interest of the student population across majors in taking Journalism courses and how they think it would improve CNU and their future career endeavors.  Based on student response, I recommend to the English department to add a Journalism minor and a Journalism concentration for English and Communication majors.  Overall, the students surveyed reacted positively to the Journalism suggestion across majors, with most of the example courses receiving positive feedback.



“Proposal for the Addition of a Journalism Concentration and Minor”

Prepared By: Victoria Cagle

Christopher Newport University cut the Journalism concentration and minor in 2011, but it would benefit the students and the school overall to revive this program.  A Journalism concentration for the English and Communication would diversify the graduating class and would give Christopher Newport University a broader appeal to incoming students.  It would give CNU a chance to become credible in another field of study, which would improve the schools state and national ranking.  The creation of the Journalism program is proposed within this ethnographic paper.  I assessed student interest, ranging from freshman to alumni, through an ethnographic approach.  I sent a Google Forms survey via email to students of different majors.  The results indicate that there is an overwhelming support of the Journalism program, with a majority of those surveyed interested in specific courses that were previously offered.  Therefore, it is suggested with student support that CNU should offer a Journalism program, because it would improve the school as a whole and would diversify the skills of CNU graduates and increase their chances in the job market.        

Keywords: course, journalism, english, communication, writing, class, university, liberal arts



As of spring 2016, the class that mostly resembles a journalism class is Creative Nonfiction.  The current Writing concentration for the English major is so sporadic with its range of topics, it is more like an overview of all types of writing instead of actually improving your skills and becoming good at any one type.  Cutting the Journalism minor and concentration is one of many cuts President Paul Trible did in order to flow funds in more profitable directions, but I think this choice was extremely detrimental to the English program.  Journalism is one of the most useful and profitable types of writing out there: it’s much easier to get an article published than it is write and publish a novel.  Producing journalists is one of the best ways for Christopher Newport University to spread its name and gain recognition.  There are not many jobs where you can spread your name as easily, and through your name you are representing your alma mater.

Just by comparing the 2009-2010 course catalogues to the few catalogues I have been privy to (from 2014 to present), the English major has noticeably been suffering.  Less courses are offered nowadays, giving students less choices which lowers the diversity of the graduating class.  Lower diversity among graduating students lowers chance of employment.  The job market for regular English majors is already oversaturated, so if CNU does not have any special or extra programs then they are setting their English graduates up for mediocrity.

The addition of a Journalism minor and concentration would improve CNU’s ranking in another area, which would improve its credibility and attract more students with wider interests.

Research Methods and Theory

An ethnographic method was used to gauge student interest across majors in the revival of the Journalism concentration and minor.  I chose the ethnographic method because I am concerned with a specific cultural group (college students, mostly from Virginia, at a specific university) and their interests.  Ethnographies usually have a specific bias to it, since the researcher is trying to prove a point.  In my case, I am trying to prove that Christopher Newport University would benefit from bringing back and revamping the Journalism minor and concentration.  I created a survey through Google Forms and sent it to students of varying majors through email and text.  The survey questions are included in the Appendix.  The survey consisted of multiple choice and short answer sections, for a total of twelve questions. Ten people responded within a three day time period.  There was at least one respondent from each year classification (freshman, sophomore, junior, senor, and alum), with a majority (40%) of respondents being current juniors.  Out of the ten participants, there were three English majors and two English minors.  The other majors represented were: Finance, Anthropology, Psychology, History, Biochemistry, Neuroscience, and Biology.

Survey participants were asked their current class standing, their majors and minors, and if they would be interested in a Journalism minor or concentration.  They were prompted to explain how they thought a Journalism minor/concentration would improve CNU in general and how it would affect them and their future career goals specifically.  I then copy and pasted course descriptions from CNU’s 2009-2010 course catalogue to gauge the interest in specific courses.  This is a better indicator of actual interest in the program, since enjoyment of specific courses is what keeps students involved in a program.  The last question asked for any ideas for courses not already listed.  This question aimed to find suggestions to flesh out and change the previous Journalism program in order to reinvent the program, not just reinstate it.

After enough participants took the survey, the data from the multiple choice questions was analyzed by the Google Forms program into helpful pie charts.  The pie charts are shown and explained in the Results and Discussion section.  The free response questions were analyzed by a world cloud generator produced by Voyant.  The world cloud generator allows often used words to stand out.  From this, I can judge the tone of respondents’ overall answer and identify what is most important to them. This is also further discussed in the Results and Discussion section.


Results and Discussion

  1. Assessing Interest in the Journalism Minor and Concentration1

Figure 1. Would you be interested in the Journalism minor or concentration?

One of the ten participants did not answer this question.  Overall, 89% of surveyed students show interest in Journalism to some degree.  This shows the diversity of the Journalism minor, since only three people surveyed were actually English majors.  33% are English majors, but 89% are actually interested in the Journalism minor/concentration.  This shows the variability of the minor.

  1. Interest in Previously Offered Journalism Courses


Figure 2. Interest in ENGL 260: News Writing and Reporting


Figure 3. Interest ing ENGL 360W: Advanced Journalism


Figure 4.  Interest in ENGL 361W: Feature Reporting and Writing


Figure 5. Interest in ENGL 362: Editing and Desktop Publishing in Print Journalism


Figure 6.  Interest in ENGL 363: Photojournalism


Figure 7.  Interest in ENGL 461: The Working Press

Every participant for each course, except for Photojournalism, would either definitely take each course listed or would take it if they had room in their schedule.  Photojournalism only had one participant say that they have no interest in this course and has the least amount of people choose the “definitely take this course” option.  This is most likely due to the fact that this course entails buying your own expensive camera, which most college students would not want to do.

If I could replicate this survey, I would give an option beneath each course description for the subject to describe what the do/do not like about the course.  This would give the school better insight into what aspects of the course would draw students into the program and what can be changed in order to make the Journalism program more successful this time around.   


  1. Ideas for Additional Courses

Only two people gave an answer for other ideas for additional Journalism courses.  One participant suggested that there be an internship-like class where CNU connects the Journalism students with a local newspaper or news television station in order to gain experience.  This type of fieldwork would be the best way to prepare students for an actual career.

Another participant suggested more interesting, topic oriented courses.  They suggested a History of Journalism course and one on War Journalism.  These could easily be 395 and 495 special topic courses.  Classes like these would expand the interest and give students a broader look at possible job opportunities.


  1. Word Cloud From Voyant


This word cloud is made from responses on how participants think that having a Journalism concentration/minor would improve/not improve CNU and its students.  Aside from obvious words like ‘writing’ and ‘minor’, other telling words that stand out are ‘different’, ‘options’, and, ‘skills’, ‘experience’.  These words have a hopeful, looking-towards-the-future tone.  The people surveyed think that having a Journalism minor and concentration would make CNU stand out more and give students more options.



Survey Questions 

  1. What is your current year?
    1. Freshman
    2. Sophomore
    3. Junior
    4. Senior
    5. Alumni
  2. What is/are your major(s) and minor(s) (please include concentrations)
  3. Would you be interested in a Journalism concentration (for the English and Communication majors) or a minor?
    1. Yes
    2. No
    3. Maybe
  4. How do you think having a Journalism concentration/minor would improve/not improve the university overall?
  5. How do you think having a Journalism concentration/minor help you/not help you as a student and your future career?

Now I am going to list course descriptions of Journalism classes previously offered before the Journalism program was cut.  Please indicate if you think the course sounds interesting.

  1. ENGL 260. News Writing and Reporting: Teaches what  you  need  to  know  to  develop,  report,  and  write news stories.  We use the classroom as a newsroom, working together to focus story ideas, working together to craft and polish our stories.  Local news editors and report-ers visit the classroom; we visit their newsroom
    1. I would definitely take this course
    2. I would take this course if I had room in my schedule
    3. I have no interest in this course
  2. ENGL 360W. Advanced Journalism: Narrative Reporting and Writing-WI: Students will report news, with an emphasis on the human dimension  of  the    This  course  serves  as  a  bridge  between  English  260:  News  Reporting  &  Writing  and  English 361: Feature Writing. Students will report news in depth, researching the issues behind the story. Each student will  also  use  immersion  reporting  to  report  and  write  a  major narrative news/feature story.
    1. I would definitely take this course
    2. I would take this course if I had room in my schedule
    3. I have no interest in this course
  3. ENGL 361W. Feature Reporting and Writing-WI: Students  will  spend  time  developing  stories  that  will,  in  some significant way, strongly impact readers.  Students will develop features that entertain and news writing that responsibly  covers  and/or  interprets  events  or  issues  in  the public arena.  There will be opportunities to look into individual  areas  of  interest  and  to  build  confidence  as  a  critical  participant  in  the  campus  and  greater  Peninsula
    1. I would definitely take this course
    2. I would take this course if I had room in my schedule
    3. I have no interest in this course
  4. ENGL   Editing  and  Desktop  Publishing  in  Print  Journalism:  Students  will  practice  analytical  and  critical  copy  edit-ing skills, with an emphasis on headline writing, content editing, proofreading, and technical control of language.  Course  gives  special  attention  to  understanding  what  decisions go into presenting the news in the print media.  Students will develop and apply desktop publishing skills in a computer lab, working to master basics in a program such as Adobe InDesign.
    1. I would definitely take this course
    2. I would take this course if I had room in my schedule
    3. I have no interest in this course
  5. ENGL 363. Photojournalism: Basic techniques of news and human-interest photography, with heavy emphasis on shooting assignments in the fi eld.  Special  attention  is  given  to  developing  skills  in  visual      Students  must  supply  their  own  basic,  but  fully adjustable 35mm camera.
    1. I would definitely take this course
    2. I would take this course if I had room in my schedule
    3. I have no interest in this course
  6. ENGL 461. The Working Press: Working journalists come to the classroom to explore issues, methodologies, and skills of the print and web newspaper media in the 21st century.  Topics of each 1-credit unit will vary.  From one to three 1-credit units may be scheduled in a given semester.  Each 1-credit unit includes a student project and report, or a paper, plus a cumulative test.
    1. I would definitely take this course
    2. I would take this course if I had room in my schedule
    3. I have no interest in this course
  7. What other types of Journalism courses would interest you? (any ideas welcome)


Works Cited:



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