Davis writes new edition of ‘Principles of American Journalism’

Charles N. Davis (MA ’92), dean of Grady College, has written a third edition of “Principles of American Journalism,” an introductory text about the core values of journalism and its role in democracy.

The book is co-authored by Stephanie Craft, professor and head of the Department of Journalism at the University of Illinois, who co-taught a course by the same name at the University of Missouri for 14 years with Davis.

“Journalism is a distinct and disciplined practice that is differentiated from all other forms of communication,” Davis said. “This book is meant to be a primer on what journalism is and what it is not.”

“Principles of American Journalism” includes discussions on definitions and terms, values, economics, emerging media business models, a look at media ethics and law and the link between journalism and democracy.

“While there are timeless principles in journalism like verification, transparency and independence that never change,” Davis said, “there are also other parts of the industry including business ventures, media start-ups and economic changes that are constantly evolving. The third edition of the book updates those parts that are rapidly changing.”

Many of the edits began in 2020 and include examples of journalism covering the pandemic, the 2020 presidential election and social unrest. Journalism was key in keeping people updated during a challenging time and a goal of the new edition is to show the importance of journalism in today’s society.

“We are tying journalism to democracy in the era we are in,” Davis continues. “We are starving journalism at our peril. We are seeing an endangered state of the industry and we cannot be content to give up and rely on the internet for our news. That’s why it’s so important to understand the fundamentals and core values of journalism that are discussed in this book.”

Davis finds it rewarding that so many doctoral students who assisted with the lecture classes at Missouri have now adopted this text to use in classes they now lead as journalism professors.

“It’s a labor of love for us both,” he said. “We continue to do it because it’s a great way to stay current, but mostly for our former students. We have a huge network of doctoral students out there using the book.”

In addition to the text, there are discussion topics and exercises at the end of each chapter. “Principles of American Journalism” also has a companion website that includes resources for students and professors including flashcards, quizzes and links to cited websites.

Davis and Middleton class gives pre-Grady students a view of ‘the real world’

It is the first day of Thursday classes on a cool January afternoon at the heart of the University of Georgia’s campus. Students are filling stadium style seats on the second floor of a Miller Learning Center classroom. One co-instructor is troubleshooting inevitable first-day-of-class technology plagues as late arrivals scan the room for an available seat which will be their accustomed space on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the following eight weeks.

Chatter is scarce. Nothing is familiar. That is the very reason this particular one-hour course exists­.

A friendly greeting breaks the silence.

“Hello and welcome,” says Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College.

Dean Charles N. Davis teaches pre-Grady students.

The same inviting pleasantry used in conversation with communications icons like Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Ernie Johnson Jr., Carolyn Tieger, Dick Yarbrough and thousands of members of Grady College’s legacy now addresses a group of pre-Grady students embarking on a journey to become communications leaders. This is their first look at their future home.

Davis co-teaches the course with Parker Middleton, Grady College’s executive senior director of strategy and engagement. Between them, they have more than 50 years of experience in journalism and academia.

“The name of the class is career explorations, but we like to call it the real world,” Davis continues with his opening remarks to the students. “It is the real world of Grady College.”

This is students’ first interaction with two of the chief administrators who will be helping them become the next generation of dynamic storytellers.

“Connecting with students at this stage is so important,” Middleton said. “We want them to feel a part of Grady and eagerly jump in.”

“Everybody remembers the fear of not knowing where to go or even who to ask,” said Davis. “We have demystified the place.”

Parker Middleton helps prepare students for the semester ahead.

Enrollment for the course has grown every semester and is up to 117 in spring 2019. It has also been a catalyst for increased volunteer involvement at Grady.

“The earlier we can give people these opportunities, the earlier they will develop,” Middleton said. “They show leadership, join clubs, volunteer at Newsource, write for the Red & Black and more.”

For two months, students learn about the operations behind one of America’s most prestigious journalism and mass communication programs and meet passionate alumni eager to offer their time and expertise.

The face time with pre-Grady students is also a valuable resource for Davis and Middleton as they help connect a new era of young professionals to employers.

“Companies come to us and say they want to get close to this demographic,” Middleton said. “They want to know Gen Z, they want to know Gen Y and millennials. This is a way to be really close to them and hear what they are thinking. The learning goes both ways.”

In a field that foreshadows through teases, ledes, hooks and headlines, Davis smiles and expresses a weighty statement intended to energize the students on the semester ahead, years upcoming and career awaiting.

“I think this is one of the most fun classes that I have ever been involved in.”

Davis and Middleton pose for a photo with their class.

From the desk of Dean Charles Davis: The importance of accreditation

The following was written by Dean Charles Davis in response to the decision made by Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications not to go through the accreditation process. This article originally appeared May 25, 2017 on the MediaShift.com website.

The recent decision by the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications not to reapply for accreditation under the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, an organization that evaluates journalism programs in colleges and universities, has ignited a national conversation about the need for such processes and of their relative value in journalism and mass communication education.

As a dean who not only sits on the accrediting body of ACEJMC, but also one whose college is in the midst of its self-study in preparation for accreditation (and yes, I will be excused from any and all deliberations involving Grady College), I’d like to lend a different perspective to the discussion.

When I began preparing for my interview for the deanship at Grady more than four years ago, my first step was to request a copy of the college’s accreditation report. It’s a go-to move: every candidate for a deanship in the country wants to digest that report. It’s jammed with information about every conceivable aspect of the program and contains the accrediting team’s recommendations moving forward.

How Accreditation Works

A word about the process first: participation in the ACEJMC accreditation process is strictly voluntary. Currently there are 117 programs in the United States and overseas that participate, a number that has grown steadily from 93 in 1991-92. The council is comprised of elected and appointed representatives from a host of academic and professional associations (I represent the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication, the national group of chairs, deans and directors).

“But there is no question that the process of accreditation helped us all buy in and see the need for reorganization sooner rather than later.”

– Dean Charles Davis

Grady’s last accrediting team was comprised of other deans and industry professionals from journalism, advertising and public relations. They worked from a set of standards all members of the association agree to, subject to revision annually, so everyone knows the playing field. Their recommendations read like a to-do list for the college, and contained a number of action items for us moving forward. As an incoming dean, I knew that the college, but also my upper administration, had been through the process and digested the report’s findings.

Accrediting site team members undergo a weekend of intense training in the standards before they can take their first visit. All of the team from Grady’s last visit were veterans of many, many site visits, so they brought not only their own years of professional experience to the table, but their extensive knowledge of the standards and of comparable programs they had visited.

Identifying Flaws, And Solutions

That level of know-how would have allowed them to see that Grady, circa 2012, was in need of a structural reorganization. That finding – one of several in the report we have acted upon – served as the catalyst for one of the most ambitious things we have undertaken in the college’s history. We began a yearlong effort in my first year as dean to fundamentally reorganize, eliminating one academic department, creating a new one and combining all of our newsgathering faculty into one digital-first journalism department. That in turn led to major curricular reform. It was a huge, huge step for the college, one that was not easy, but one that was made clear by the accreditation team.

Would that seismic change have been as high on my to-do list were it not in that accrediting report? Well, maybe. It had been under discussion in the college for some time. But there is no question that the process of accreditation helped us all buy in and see the need for reorganization sooner rather than later.

Now we’re in the midst of our self-study as we prepare for reaccreditation, and I can’t tell you how helpful it has been. Tiresome? Yes! Tedious? Sure! But important – and such a compelling impetus for driving change and modernizing curriculum.

We’ve updated our diversity plan and reassessed our strategic plan. We’ve reached out to the companies who hire our students, to the professional associations we partner with and to our graduates to assess how well we are serving them. We’ve compiled all the research we have done, tracked where our graduates are working, and provided a ton of data on all of our programs, all easily accessible on the college’s website.

A Transparent Process

We know precisely what the process is, because the ACEJMC process is the most transparent accreditation system in U.S. higher education. All meetings are open to the public, and all site team reports dating back to 2012-13 are available in full online on the ACEJMC website.

The process neither dictates curriculum, nor does it limit students’ ability to take courses across disciplines or earn dual degrees, should they choose. It’s time-consuming and laborious, and certainly can be improved, but there is only one way to improve an accrediting process now in its 72nd year – to stay at the table and lead from within. In the end, it’s the process itself that proves itself invaluable, reinvigorating the college and helping us continue to reinvent ourselves.