Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 30, No.2

September 29, 2005


Typewriter to high-tech, Journalism keeps pace with times

Newly renovated building for 30th birthday

By Allison Martens

After years of hopscotching between buildings and holding classes in rooms so small students had to practically be shoehorned into them, the Department of Journalism has received the perfect gift just in time for its 30th anniversary: a roomy, modern, permanent home.

The gleaming new Communication Studies and Journalism Building isn’t your run-of-the-mill pile of bricks and mortar, according to Journalism director Enn Raudsepp, who joined the department in 1978 and has been at its helm since 1993. “The move into this building has to be the capstone of 30 years of hard work.

“It’s definitely a state-of-the art facility, complete with all new equipment and control rooms for both radio and television. We’ve never had a TV studio before.”

The new facilities include a New Media Lab where students can brush up on their desktop publishing skills and new radio studios. Future Walter Cronkites and Pamela Wallins can hone their technique in a real television studio, complete with an anchor desk, lighting grid and teleprompter.

“Now that we’re surrounded by this technical excellence, our graduates will leave us completely prepared for any situation they may face in any newsroom in the country,” said Peter Downie, coordinator of the department’s broadcast program and veteran CBC host.

Computers and cameras are good for many things, but putting together a hard-hitting story is not one of them. Both Raudsepp and Downie stress that the new technology is still subservient to its human masters, who use it merely as a delivery system.

Although the department is now on the cutting edge, Raudsepp recalls when it had only 20 rickety Olympia typewriters (and, perhaps coincidentally, only 20 students).

“When I arrived here 27 years ago, it was strictly a print program. We gradually started to do radio and television but we didn’t have the proper facilities,” Raudsepp said. “Everything was done on a very ad hoc basis.”

Slide show

In those days, the ability to improvise was paramount. Mark Bulgutch, a former professor and now senior producer at the CBC, recalls teaching a television course without cameras. Instead,
the class narrated their stories accompanied by slides.

“It was the kind of TV Fred Flintstone would have watched after a rough day at the quarry,” Bulgutch reminisces in the department’s 30th anniversary publication, “but it was a start.”
It may have been rough going, but it was good enough to give CFCF host Mutsumi Takahashi (BA 79) a leg up into the competitive world of broadcasting.

Gaining entry

In 1975, journalism hopefuls only had to survive an interview to gain entry.

That changed in 1976, and students who apply to the program today must still submit a perfectly penned letter of intent and complete a test to assess their writing skills, vocabulary and current events savvy.

Students come from across Canada for journalism studies at Concordia

In both its undergraduate and graduate programs, the department refuses two students for each one that it accepts, making it one of the most competitive departments to get into.

Although applicants must have a minimum average of 70 per cent to be considered, Raudsepp says the average successful applicant generally has a CEGEP or high school average of around 84 per cent.

Students come from across the country to study at Concordia, and at the graduate diploma level – which requires a BA – Raudsepp says they are of all stripes.

“We get graduate engineers, lawyers, commerce and music grads, and people from across the arts and sciences. We’ve even had three people with PhDs in the program, one veterinary doctor, and dozens of MAs.”

Every newsroom

The department’s alumni have infiltrated nearly every newsroom in the country.

In fact, Montrealers get their news from them every time they watch Mark Kelley (BA 85) or Christina Lawand (BA 90) on the CBC, Jamie Orchard (BA 91) on Global, or tune into CJAD radio and Andrew Carter (BA 84) .

In fact, Concordia journalism grads are downright unavoidable, according to Linda Kay.

The department’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning assistant professor, Kay is still an avid freelancer.

“One of my most memorable moments when I was at the Montreal courthouse to cover a story for Newsweek, and five of my former students were there, covering the same story for various news organizations.

“They’re my competition now!”