Reviewing the highlights of the past year at Kansas University's William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Dean Mike Kautsch reached back to remember the man for whom the school is named.
White, the famed publisher of the Emporia Gazette, was known for his small-town advocacy.
And that spirit of community journalism is exactly the point of a $1 million grant the school received last year from the Knight Foundation.
"The intention is to appoint a leading journalist who will teach and conduct an educational program on the topic of press leadership in the community," he said. "We felt honored to receive the grant and are excited at the prospect of focusing national attention on the relationship of newspapers to their communities how they may help shape the destiny of their communities. It is an extension, really, of the legacy represented by William Allen White."
THE SCHOOL will use the grant to create an endowment for a permanent faculty position called the Knight Chair in Journalism. The first person to fill the chair will be John C. Ginn, president and publisher of the Anderson (S.C) Independent-Mail. He will join the faculty Jan. 1.
While the Knight chair will put a new emphasis on community journalism, the school's faculty have been busy working with state newspapers by offering continuing education programs. Faculty members presented seminars on writing, reporting and advertising in several Kansas towns. Similar programs will be continued this year, Kautsch said.
"It's very rewarding for a professional program like ours to be of service to the working press," he said.
Another rewarding achievement of the past year, he said, was getting control of the school's enrollment. Enrollment was 948 last year, down from the 1,030 students in 1989-90.
AND IN journalism enrollment, Kautsch said, less means more for the school's stretched resources.
"We had to act to reduce the number of students," he said. "We have not been able to cope easily with the number of students we had. When we reached 1,000, we had exceeded our capacity.
"I hope we can hold it at 850 or so,'' he said. ``So much of the school's program depends on one-on-one contact with the teachers and students."
The school's advertising sequence continued to lead in enrollment last spring with 338 students. Second was news-editorial with 310 students, which included 179 students in business communication. The radio-television sequence was third with 117 students, followed by magazine, 85; graduate students, 65; undecided, 24; and nine non-degree seeking students.
All but the news-editorial numbers were down from the previous spring. Buoying the news-editorial enrollment were 65 more students in business communication.
AS THE NUMBERS indicate, business communication is one of the most popular fields of study in the school, Kautsch said.
"The purpose of that curriculum is to enable students to perform public relations functions for corporations, government agencies, non-profit organizations and the like," he said of the program.
To be successful, Kautsch said, the students need to develop skills to work in both the print and electronic media.
Kautsch also noted that a highlight of the past school was the the renewal of the Gannett Foundation grant for a professional-in-residence to teach at the school for an entire school year.
"It benefits all of us to have a journalist in here for a whole academic year," Kautsch said.
Action already taken by the school is giving students an edge in newspaper technology. The student newspaper, The University Daily Kansan is serving as a test site for new computer technology.
"We're happy to be on the cutting edge of development of computer technology for newspaper production," Kautsch said.
THE INSTALLATION of the new production system for the student paper means the Kansan will be able to provide ``an unusually up-to-date laboratory experience for the students," he said.
Developing innovative ways to attract minority students to the school also will be stressed by Kautsch in the coming year.
To achieve the goal, the school plans to establish an advisory board of professionals and distinguished minority alumni of the school, he said.
As with the other schools on campus, journalism is facing some difficult times because of state budget problems.
"Unfortunately, to do everything we want would require more resources than will be available, especially in light of the budget cuts," he said. "It makes the future extremely uncertain. We are deferring a lot of expenditures ultimately the impact falls on the students."