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Lou Ureneck named chair of journalism department

Veteran print journalist hopes to bring core principles into the information age

Lou Ureneck, professor of journalism at COM, has also been an editor-in-residence at the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University.

Lou Ureneck, a professor of journalism at the College of Communication, has been named chairman of the journalism department. He was asked yesterday by Dean John Schulz to take on the chairmanship and recommended for the post by outgoing chairman Robert Zelnick, who announced his resignation from the chairmanship Tuesday. Faculty are expected to vote on the nomination at the next faculty meeting in May.

“A lot has happened in the last 24 hours,” Ureneck told BU Today last night. While Zelnick’s announcement surprised many, Ureneck says he has had general discussions with Zelnick and Schulz about assuming the chairmanship for more than a year.

Ureneck, who is also director of COM’s business and economic journalism program and graduate studies program, came to the University three years ago from his post as deputy managing editor and assistant to the editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer. In addition to leading newspapers for more than 22 years, he has served as an editor-in-residence at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

Over the last six months, Ureneck been working with COM faculty to develop a strategic planning process and a long-range plan for the department, with a particular focus on changes wrought by the Internet.

“Those of us who have been practicing journalism for decades were inculcated with a set of values and principles around accuracy, verification, and operating as independent observers,” says Ureneck, a former chairman of the New Media and Values Committee of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. “Those traditional principles are being challenged by these new forms that are developing on the Internet. Those goals aren’t in contrast, but it will require a lot of thought and work from the faculty to translate those insights into course material.”

The faculty at COM, says Ureneck, have been considering such questions as, “What’s the place of blogging or interactivity in the journalism curriculum? What do we mean by citizen journalism and is that an appropriate category [within COM]?”

He says that a long-range plan would also change the COM curriculum to allow students more opportunity to learn different kinds of media, rather than concentrating on only print, broadcast, or Internet. His goal is the development of graduate program concentrations modeled after those in the University’s science and medical journalism program or business and economics journalism program, which he now oversees. 

Ureneck says he also hopes to encourage the COM faculty to maximize their influence on the future of journalism. “There are lots of opportunities for University faculty here in the journalism department to engage the public in the intellectual debate over the direction of journalism,” he says. “We need to be involved in that.”

Schulz says that outgoing chairman Zelnick, a longtime ABC News correspondent before coming to COM, will assume the title of professor of national and international affairs. “The three of us will work closely to ensure great continuity and a smooth transition in leadership in the department,” the dean says. “I look forward to working with Lou as he establishes his own agenda and leadership style.”
 
In accepting Zelnick’s decision, Schulz says, “Bob has provided vision and leadership to a department that is measurably stronger and more prominent as a result. I have been guided by his wise counsel and support during my three years as dean.  Teaching together, we have found that our views and lessons on journalism are utterly congruent.”