by Jim Lang
Disclaimer: I am wearing my faded gray IU School of Journalism shirt as I write this.
We are so often shaped by the people and places in our lives. Are the special places in our lives made so by the people we meet there? Or, do special places make the people we meet and the experiences we have more meaningful?
Today the Indiana University School of Journalism officially becomes a part of IU’s new Media School, a move that supporters say will help IU continue to be among the nation’s leaders in media, communication, and journalism.
The new Media School, housed in IU’s College of Arts and Sciences, effectively “pulls together” the journalism, telecommunications, and communications and culture departments into a single mega-school. Benefits include a more streamlined approach for journalism and communication majors as they more effectively produce their work across media platforms in renovated, state-of-the-art facilities in IU’s Franklin Hall in 2016.
It’s a bold move that, if implemented correctly, will ensure that IU remains among the nation’s best journalism and media schools.
The IU Media School has the potential to be a special place.
Even as we look toward the future, though, I’d like to take a moment to honor the legacy of another special place – the IU School of Journalism in Ernie Pyle Hall.
For all practical purposes, that place ceased to exist at midnight today. The building still exists – for now. The exceptional faculty, staff, and programs are intact and will be a part of creating the new legacy of the Media School. But the School of Journalism in Ernie Pyle Hall as so many of us know and love it no longer exists in the form that we knew it. And while the future looks shiny, new, and exciting, the past holds the true secret for continuing the legacy of excellence in journalism and media at IU.
The truth is that as I reflect on my many years of association with the IU School of Journalism and Ernie Pyle Hall, I treasure the people, experiences, and small memories more than any technology I used or skills I mastered.
Small moments with great people made Ernie Pyle Hall special to me.
Working late nights with good friends at the copy desk at the Indiana Daily Student. Proudly turning in my journalism law paper after an all-nighter (got an A, too). Scribbling notes on those tiny, carved up brown desks in the old lecture hall – those desk tops recorded history in the names and messages scratched into their surfaces. Sneaking a few minutes of reading – okay, napping – in the J-School library between classes. Laughing and learning with friends. Spending 25 summers teaching, counseling, conducting lights-out, and playing practical jokes as a counselor and instructor at the High School Journalism Institute (to the “victims” of those jokes – I’m still laughing). Learning from and working with the very best journalism educators who always demanded my best, too, and who taught us that journalism (not media – journalism) and education were the noblest of professions. Deciding to become a journalism teacher – yes, I made that decision inside that building. Watching my own students earn scholarships to and attend a school that has always been special to me. Developing lifelong friendships.
These are some of my memories, but each person who spent time in Ernie Pyle Hall carries his or her own unique stories. We need to share these stories. We need to honor those who helped create these stories. After all, that’s what we were taught to do, and that’s how we ensure that the legacy of the IU School of Journalism continues into the hallways and classrooms of the new Media School.
Those of us who learned and laughed in Ernie Pyle Hall feel fiercely protective of the school and its legacy because we know that it was never the physical structure, the curriculum, or the technology that made the IU School of Journalism so exceptional – it was the people.
That special place – and those people – did more than train us for a job or prepare us for a career. In so many ways, they made us who we are. They helped us learn from each other to create learning experiences and bonds that remain with us today. They made us think beyond ourselves. They made us better. They became part of our stories. That’s what great educators – and journalists – do. That’s what great people do.
So, as a proud graduate of the IU School of Journalism, thank you to every faculty and staff member and every friend who made Ernie Pyle Hall a special place of learning for me. Thank you for making me a better writer, storyteller, and teacher. Thank you for making me a better person.
And may the new IU Media School embrace the legacy of the IU School of Journalism — powerful storytelling, ethical journalism, and outstanding teaching — to become a place as special as Ernie Pyle Hall.