North Central College launches new media studies department

Sep 17, 2014

North Central College is launching a new media studies department this fall to prepare students for the increasingly dynamic media field. The new department combines journalism, broadcast communication and interactive media studies (IMS). The popular IMS major blends art, computer science, English and communication.

“The goal is to combine these fields of study to mirror the changing digital media landscape,” says R. Devadoss Pandian, North Central’s vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty.

The media studies department consists of faculty from journalism, art and broadcast communication programs. Kay O’Donnell, assistant professor of journalism, is coordinator of the new department. The faculty will seek to build on the successes of WONC-FM 89.1 and IMS, as well as integrate videography through a collaboration with Naperville Community Television.

“The individual programs of journalism, broadcast communications and IMS have existed on campus for some time and have established identities,” O’Donnell says. “By uniting these programs under one umbrella, we will be able to link our vision and extend our resources to create a cohesive, converged media experience for our students.”

With 20 years expertise in newsroom work, O’Donnell understands the importance of adaptation. Since arriving at North Central in 2012, she has refocused the academic curriculum for the journalism major, adapting the coursework to meet demand for skills critical for student success in the media workforce.  

“Journalism has to exist; it’s part of our national identity,” she says. “And it’s even more critical to teach those skills today, to talk about what’s credible ... and to emphasize fact-checking and accuracy.”

She’s also adjusted production of the student-run newspaper, The Chronicle, to reflect the new realities of the journalism field. Its print production has been reduced in favor of an online version with video and audio components. 

“We have to see ourselves as part of a ‘news organization’ that produces print, digital media stories, video, audio and photography,” she says. “We need to know all those areas.”

Last year, O’Donnell enlisted student help in developing, a website for The Chronicle, which has been published exclusively in print since 1873. The site incorporates the new department’s multimedia philosophy that O’Donnell is teaching, bringing together student writing with video, photography and social media.

After six months of operation last year, was awarded a top national award by the College Media Association. 

“Since coming to North Central just three years ago, the journalism program has really evolved,” says David Sutton ’15, who will be coeditor-in-chief of The Chronicle this year. “Kay really understands what’s going on in the fast-paced news industry.”