Dr. Teri Kwal
The College of New
"Our students have used the Masters in
Communication Studies to advance
in their current jobs, retool themselves to perform key functions in
corporate and organizational communication, advertising and public
relations, sales, marketing, and customer service, human resources and
training and development - either with an existing or a new employer,
begin their own communication consulting firms and businesses."
The media are
continually attacked (from all sides) for delivering the news; slanting
the news; spinning the news; and, in fact, for just giving us the news.
How do you approach this “problem” in your classes?
In the M.S. in Communication Studies Program, we offer a
series of core courses including Theories
of Communication and Public Opinion and Persuasion in which we
explore such topics as the nature of agenda setting, the construction
of public opinion, the increasing amounts of bias and incivility in
opinion programming, the role we hoped that “the fourth estate” would
serve in society, as well as the effects that burgeoning media empires
are having on the media and society with special attention paid to how
they are affecting news coverage.
We do our best to allow the program’s students to
conduct research that enables them to draw their own conclusions
regarding objective versus “point of view” news offerings, the status
of the public’s right to know, the pressures placed on news
organizations by advertisers and advocacy groups, how framing alters
news coverage and content, the manipulation and manufacturing of news,
and what “fair and balanced” coverage really means today.
we as a society suffering from too much media? Are we better off today
with instant news than we were in the 1800s when it took weeks for news
to travel across the United States?
There is no question that we live in a media-saturated or what I call a
“media-more” society. It is virtually impossible today for any one of
us to be “media-less.”
With the increasing prevalence of cell-phones, PDAs,
blackberries, MP3 players (now even embedded in the sunglasses we
wear), wireless zones and portable, even wearable, computers, we are
never at a loss for information or entertainment that has been
personalized to suit our needs and wants.
What is more, we can always reach or be reached by
others. We expect to be able to go online and virtually instantaneously
find whatever we need to know. We expect to tune into 24-hour news
networks such as CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, or FOX and receive up to the second
(forget up to the minute-that idea is passé) accounts of what’s
happening in our world.
Lest we forget, however, huge corporations with vested
economic and political interests control these networks and “the
information superhighway.” As we receive information and entertainment
from them, they watch us, learning about how we think, how we are
influenced, and how we buy. I think we are at a crossroads-and one of
the key questions we need to ask is will our democratic principles
survive the onslaught of corporate influence?
News, by definition, needs to be timely. It is, however,
the meaning we have for timely that continues to evolve. While we have
both hard and soft news today, the reality is that news is always
developing or continuing. And with the advent of the Internet and
highly competitive 24-hours news programming options, there is the
threat that accuracy and organization will be supplanted by distortion
and disorganization in order that news voids be filled. Always looking
for the latest sound bite, the stopwatch of our obsessive media
consumption culture never seems to be put on “pause.” While we may be
faster at getting the news we want, we probably are not better for it.
When information provided by sources is not verified, when the rush to
be first counts more than the need to be right, when the pushing of a
position replaces the testing of the facts used to support those
positions, then the likelihood is that instant news will deliver
are witnessing the growth of blogs and the decline of newsprint. How
does that trend influence your decisions in terms of what you teach and
what courses you offer at the graduate level here at CNR?
There is no question that the movement toward the personalization of
media is altering both the media and corporate marketplace. We are now
not just the users but also the creators and programmers of media
content. Bloggers (webloggers), for example, have taken the diary to
new heights by making the intensely personal, very public. Bloggers
share their innermost thoughts about controversial issues with virtual
strangers. As a result of blogs and their attendant web links, new
political and social interest groups form.
Continuing technological advances also make it possible
for corporations to stay connected with their employees and their
publics. We are free to telecommute, teleconference and
videoconference, send text and instant-messages. The cultures of the
organizations we work for and in are changing as quickly as the means
of communication they use to reach their varied publics and accomplish
In Communication Studies, we explore the growth of blogs
and other new means of communication. We attempt to identify the impact
such communication forms are having, how they are changing the culture,
altering our responses to each other as well as global events as they
do so. In addition to surveying the media, we also pay special
attention to the fields of advertising, public relations,
organizational communication, and leadership studies. People in these
fields have to possess a broad understanding of how we use myriad media
of communication to interact with and influence one another, learn from
and share knowledge, beliefs, and values with one another, and join
together to function as teams.
are some of the key issues and concerns a person should consider before
enrolling in a graduate program in Communication Studies at CNR?
We are looking for students who are interested in
enhancing their knowledge of the media of communication, interested in
playing a role in public relations or related industries, and/or
motivated to become leaders and proficient communicators in diverse
The fact is that in the future we will all function as
consumers and generators of communication. We will be the users,
creators, and evaluators of communication. With this in mind, the
program in Communication Studies seeks to meet an array of needs. Prime
among them are to educate students to cope with changing communication
environments, to equip them with the communication skills they need to
traverse their ever-evolving media rich world, and to prepare them to
use an array of communication skills to improve their abilities to
relate with others, handle on the job conflicts, overcome the
challenges posed by gender and diversity, think critically about the
role communication plays in society and organizations, as well as
perform as the field’s leaders or as members of productive work teams.
What have some of the graduates done (in terms of jobs and careers)
after finishing the CNR Masters Program?
Our students have used the Masters in Communication
Studies to advance in their current jobs, retool themselves to perform
key functions in corporate and organizational communication,
advertising and public relations, sales, marketing, and customer
service, human resources and training and development - either with an
existing or a new employer, or begin their own communication consulting
firms and businesses. Some have become professors in higher-education
institutions, while others have gone on to Ph.D. programs.