In what has become an annual tradition, Bethany’s Department of Communications and Media Arts sponsored “Comm Week,” March 26-April 1.
Featuring presentations and workshops from prominent Bethany alumni and professionals working in a wide variety of communications fields, Comm Week is designed to help students prepare for careers in the astonishing, fast-paced world of media. In the words of Department Chair M.E. Yancosek Gamble, “This year’s edition of Comm Week was especially meaningful. We celebrated what our department has accomplished in the last 50 years, while highlighting where we’re headed in the next 50.”
What a difference a half century makes, indeed. As I mentioned at our Student Awards Ceremony during Comm Week, in 1962 most Americans received their daily news from the printed page—larger areas had several morning and afternoon papers—and from nightly TV broadcasts by three major networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC) featuring trusted male-authority figures and limited visuals. Videotape and live news coverage were in their infancy. The idea of 24-hour-a-day news broadcasting later pioneered by CNN was years away. Radio was terrestrial, often featuring live, original programming.
Online news sources and advertising, the hundreds of cable TV options we now have, webstreaming and other media developments familiar to us today were decades away. The idea of integrated media was as much a fantasy as science fiction. Career opportunities for women in communications management or on the air were few; they sometimes fared better in print journalism as reporters or photographers.
Public relations, marketing and advertising were driven by “Mad Men” directing influential firms in New York and a few other large cities; print ads and billboards were joined by TV commercials, typically in black and white, that look primitive and slow by today’s standards. TV sports coverage lacked graphics and instant replay, though some memorable play-by-play broadcasters became sports icons in their own right.
The challenge today is to keep up with what’s happening right now in the communications field—and to be prepared for the coming decades, which promise even more dramatic developments.
To offer our students valuable perspective on these trends, Bethany was happy to welcome back some alumni of significance for Comm Week. Faith Daniels ’79, former network news anchor and “Today” show host, gave a powerful presentation in the Johnson Visual Arts Center on how students can best use the Teleprompter to create a professional media presentation. Dan Lohman ’98 of Pikewood Creative, George Manahan ’83 of The Manahan Group public relations firm, Margy Lang ’80, Sportive Inc. E1 Fit and Larry Meltzer ’81, MM2PR, offered insights on the future of integrated, digital and corporate media, as well as political campaigns, advertising and product branding. Our students also benefited from presentations by Jay Phillipone, Priority Communications; Tim McCoy, General Manager of WTOV 9; Chris Stalman, The Manahan Group; and David Allinder, publisher of In Wheeling Magazine.
During the week, we honored two important pioneers of the modern communications program at Bethany: E.E. Roberts, who founded the journalism and public relations program in 1929, and James “Jim” Carty, Jr., who established the communications department in 1962. A reception at Renner Art Gallery, Bethany House, was hosted by Marc and Joyce Dumbaugh Chernenko ’78, Art’77 and Vicky Stimac Musicaro ’76 and Joyce Pollack Jefferson ’77 and her husband Bill Jones, celebrating Prof. Carty’s influence in students’ lives and careers these past 50 years. Additional support was provided by The Driehorst Family Foundation, which permitted webstreaming of Comm Week events.
Along with providing 50 hours of programming on WVBC campus radio, we capped Comm Week 2012 with the induction of 12 new student members into the Bethany chapter of the Society for Collegiate Journalists (SCJ) at Christman Manor at Pendleton Heights. The Bethany chapter was chartered in 1947, making ours one of the ten oldest chapters in the nation. Looking ahead, the College has received preliminary approval to host the 2014 national conference of SCJ right here on our campus, bringing students and their mentors from around the country to Bethany—an especially exciting opportunity for our students, as well.
The last word for Comm Week belonged to long-time newspaper editor Park Burroughs of the Washington, Pennsylvania, Observer Publishing Company, who will join us this fall as a distinguished lecturer in journalism. In his remarks to the new class of the Society for Collegiate Journalists at Bethany, he spoke of the dramatic changes that he has witnessed in the business of print media during his 40-year career. But he reminded them: “As journalists, you will always be in dogged pursuit of the truth. When change comes, embrace it—but never forget your purpose.”
Publisher Burroughs’ wise words also apply to our overall mission at Bethany: amid often profound change in our society, it is well for us to remember our guiding purpose as first articulated by Bethany founder Alexander Campbell—to free the mind as we search for truth.