July 1st, 2014
For Long Beach State’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, regaining accreditation this spring was not an easy task.
The program, once considered one of the premier journalism programs in Southern California, fell on hard times in the 1990s, with an economic downturn, faculty retirements and a flood in the basement of the SSPA Building — the department’s home — hurting the program and depressing faculty and student morale. The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) took away the department’s accreditation in the 1996-1997 academic year.
When Department Chair Chris Burnett started at CSULB in the fall of 2001, it was common for students to compare the department unfavorably with journalism programs at nearby Cal State schools, and many chose to those schools over because of the lack of ACEJMC’s professional accreditation.
In truth, the program was never as bad as the lack of ACEJMC accreditation would seem to indicate. New faculty hires rejuvenated the program in the early and mid-2000s and the curriculum and equipment was updated. Still, when he became department chair in the fall of 2011, he made regaining ACEJMC accreditation his top priority.
With University support, Dr. Burnett went to ACEJMC meetings in Chicago in March and August 2012, and the faculty prepared a 100-page report specifying how the department was doing in each of the nine standards ACEJMC uses to judge accreditation readiness. This report so impressed the ACEJMC leadership team that they agreed to let the department come up for review in the 2013-14 academic year. What followed was an intense period in summer and fall 2013 preparing the official report to go to the site team, which visited the campus in February 2014. The recommendation — compliance on all nine standards – set the stage for ACEJMC committee and full accrediting council approval this spring.
So what does accreditation mean? The stamp of approval on our program from ACEJMC means that Cal State will be listed as one of the approximately 110 top programs across the country providing high quality education that lead to jobs for students. The accreditation also will help raise the department’s profile as an attractive destination for bright young faculty seeking teaching careers and students seeking a top-notch journalism education. Students and the department also now will be eligible for Hearst Journalism Awards available only to students from ACEJMC accredited schools. After years in the ACEJMC wilderness, it’s been nice to clear this major hurdle and be able to look forward to even brighter days for journalism and public relations education at CSULB.