- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2007

RICHMOND — A national body will reaccredit Hampton University’s journalism school, a year after threatening to downgrade its credentials for failure to meet standards, school officials said.

The recommendation by members of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) will be finalized in May.

Accreditation isn’t mandatory for journalism programs, but is valued as a signal of excellence to students and future employers.

“This decision to [reaccredit] our program reinforces our determination to continue the excellence we have achieved in a very short period of time,” said Tony Brown, dean of the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Mr. Brown cited new writing-improvement programs and upgraded broadcast software as well as smoothed relations between the school and Hampton administration.

“We’re beginning to see more and more a demonstration of the results,” he said.

The ACEJMC accredits 109 journalism programs, assessing schools in nine areas, including governance and research. Hampton was judged lacking in both areas during a site visit last spring.

In May, the body granted the school provisional accreditation, a second-tier rating giving the department two years to shape up.

Hampton appealed, and ACEJMC officials revisited the school last month.

“I just don’t believe — and the university didn’t believe — that it was a good process, that first one,” Mr. Brown said. The new decision will stand for six years.

It’s good news for Hampton’s journalism school, troubled in recent years by a series of staff departures and public disagreements over the school’s mission.

In 2004, Christopher Campbell resigned after one year heading the school, citing a clash with Hampton administration. His predecessor also resigned after similar conflicts.

Hampton made news in 2003 after administrators confiscated the school’s student-run newspaper for not publishing a letter from the university president on the front page.

The American Society of Newspaper Editors later cited that incident in withholding a $55,000 grant. In May, former Time columnist Jack E. White pointed to concerns over free speech in explaining why he wouldn’t return to a teaching job at Hampton.

“We needed a direction and standards for our students,” said Mr. Brown, who added a mentoring program, regular meetings with freshmen and an anti-plagiarism campaign since he joined the school in 2004.

Last year, officials created a writing center to boost incoming students’ grammar. This year, they’ve expanded the program.

“We’ve started another center for excellence in broadcast journalism,” said Mr. Brown, adding they’ve ramped up education in media sales, an often-neglected arena that can fast-track minorities to managerial newsroom positions.

Chanelle Wright is a junior broadcast major with dreams of working in television. For now, she’s building her skills with new tools she said Hampton is providing.

“We have newer cameras, we have Mac computers,” she said. “Every year, there’s been a whole lot of changes.”

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