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Susan Brockus Wiesinger

Chair's Column

By Susan Brockus Wiesinger

Merry-go-round or roller coaster? Do I want things to be smooth and uneventful?
To be able to step off the ride saying “Well, that was nice”? Or, do I want to struggle
upward, race forward at breakneck speeds, screech to an abrupt halt, and then
shakily stand up and say “Damn, THAT was really something”?

Yes. On both counts.

Life needs routine, but life needs to be interesting.

There has been a tremendous amount of change in the journalism department in the past six months, and there’s more ahead.

To recap: Bleske retired, Brown retired, Milo retired, Waddell announced his pending retirement, Nordstrom was elected director
of Multicultural and Gender Studies, Brockus and Quinn were tenured, Brockus became Wiesinger, Wiesinger became chair,
Bleske and Milo became professors emeriti, the department changed its name, JOUR 130 joined the general education course options,
and I’m sure a few other things of note transpired along the way.

We’re definitely in roller coaster phase. Is it interesting? Yes. Is it exhilarating and exhausting? Yes.

Do I want to hop on the merry-go-round next and get the chance to be bored? Yes. But I’m pretty sure I again would be in line
for the biggest roller coaster as soon as the carousel music stopped.

Changing Chairs

After six years of teaching journalism at Chico State, the faculty elected me chair of the department.
My learning curve is steep, but 12 years of newspaper management prepared me well for the
opportunities presented by department management.

I’m third-generation newspaper and I all but bleed ink. I have a strong understanding of the importance of journalism to a
democracy and an enduring love for writing. But I also hold a master’s degree in public relations and a Ph.D. in technology
and communication. So I’m a strange sort of hybrid and like to think I have a deep appreciation for both the news and PR
sides of the program.


And, yes, it is officially the “news” option these days, rather than “news-editorial.” And we now are the
“Department of Journalism and Public Relations.”

The faculty, in consultation with journalism’s advisory board, decided last spring to rename the news-ed option
and program to better reflect what it is our students actually do. Public relations tends to be what we call a “found”
major. This means that students kind of fall into it one day and say “yes, this is what I’ve been looking for.” We
want to change that. The excellence of our PR program deserves to be more visible.

As for the option, “news-editorial” seemed to anchor us in print, yet our students are being trained to tell
compelling stories no matter the medium.

Print, Web, whatever. Good storytelling is good storytelling, whether it’s a 1,400-word story, a
140-character tweet, a news release, a blog, a video or a photo essay. Our concern is good content,
regardless of the platform.

This focus has been mapped out and emerging for at least five years. But a change in focus
isn’t very useful if no one knows it’s happening.

This is where Tehama Group Communications comes in. Last spring TGC students started the
journalism rebranding campaign that began with “This is Journalism Today” ads in The Orion and
has continued with the“Department of Journalism and Public Relations” logo designed by
Jennifer Schaupp, our department Facebook page and other interesting things that are in
the planning stages.

What’s Ahead

This is a great program, with a tight-knit, focused faculty. We continue to have strong majors –
people with a real interest in and passion for journalism and public relations. We are not changing
direction, but continuing with the progress that is a hallmark of this program.

We’re building on the tremendous success of ideas and projects launched by Kurt Nordstrom,
Katie Milo, Glen Bleske and Dave Waddell. We’ve had a long run of fabulous leadership. My greatest
hope is to grow the program, keep it visible and viable, and try not to break anything.

And I’ll try not to shriek too loudly or too often when we’re racing down the track, seemingly out of control.
I know my turn on the ride eventually will end and I’m determined to enjoy every thrilling minute. But I also
know how much I’ll appreciate my turn on the merry-go-round.

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