MTSU’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media Celebrates 50 Years

MTSU School of Journalism
Students in Middle Tennessee State University’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media have real-world, hands-on experience as they work toward their degree preparing them for their future careers. Students have had opportunities to cover events like Bonnaroo, interview celebrities and participate in other opportunities.

Middle Tennessee State University’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media is celebrating its 50th year of teaching students reporting, storytelling, breaking news and everything in between.

Approved in 1972, the program began when Ed Kimbrell started the Department of Mass Communications, which included sequences in advertising and public relations, news-editorial, graphics and photography, and broadcasting.

A Recording Industry major was added in 1973. The department became a school as it added radio and TV courses before becoming the College of Mass Communications in 1989 and later renamed the College of Media and Entertainment in 2015.

The School of Journalism and Strategic Media in the John Bragg Media and Entertainment building now offers two degrees and 10 concentrations. It has more than two dozen faculty and 300 students.

“I am so proud of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media, which is known throughout the nation for the education it has provided our students for 50 years,” said College of Media and Entertainment Dean Beverly Keel, an MTSU alumna and former award-winning music industry journalist. “What I really admire is that it continues to provide the foundation for journalism, advertising, public relations, sports media, and media design while constantly evolving to address the changes in the industry. No matter how technology changes, our graduates are prepared to communicate.”

MTSU’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media equips students with professional knowledge and is focused on preparing the next generation of leaders in the ever-changing journalism and mass communication industries.

“Our professors give students beyond-the-classroom experiences in any way they can – calling sports for ESPN+, going to the action to get stories and working with real clients in our Ad and PR agency. We involve students however we can,” said School of Journalism Director Katie Foss. “Our curriculum offers interesting and unique courses, like data journalism, crime and media and election coverage.”

Keel added, “Whether it’s traveling across the state to immerse themselves in a community and writing about its most colorful characters, to visiting Iowa to report on the presidential election, our students receive real-world, hands-on experience. It’s our faculty who truly make the difference. They are the most caring, dedicated and kind faculty that you will find anywhere. Indeed, they continue to mentor their students decades after graduation.”

The school’s anniversary events kicked off earlier this month with news executives from Knoxville’s NBC affiliate WBIR leading a day-long symposium on television producing and reporting for journalism students.

To celebrate its 50th year, a fundraising and networking event will be held at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 12, on the second-floor atrium of Miller Education Center at 503 E. Bell Street.

“Our PR Event Planning class, taught by (lecturer) Angie Boyd-Chambers, led the planning of this 50th anniversary celebration week,” Foss said.

The event will connect some of MTSU’s esteemed alumni with some of the school’s most promising students. Tickets are $68 with proceeds funding student enrichment within the School of Journalism and Strategic Media. Attendees will be served heavy appetizers and desserts and receive a special edition 50th anniversary T-shirt.

Alums from MTSU’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media currently work as news reporters, anchors at major television and radio stations and newspapers, including WBIR-TV (Knoxville), WKRN-TV (Nashville), WVLT-TV (Knoxville), The Tennessean, NewsChannel 5 (Nashville), Main Street Media, the Associated Press, WSMV-TV (Nashville), Sirius XM Radio and more.

“We have grads working at ESPN, NBC, the Hallmark Channel, USA Today Network, The Predators, NASA, TikTok, Nissan, Delta Airlines and nonprofits,” Foss said, adding, “Our graduates are sports editors and analysts, social media coordinators and graphic designers. They work in digital marketing, social media, recruiting, and more.”

Notable alumni include morning anchor Holly Thompson (WSMV), Chief Investigative Reporter Phil Williams (WTVF), Don Aaron (Associate Administrator/Public Affairs Director for the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department), Tracey Rogers (Senior Vice President and Regional Manager for Nexstar Media Group), anchor Katie Inman (WBIR), among many others.

Williams returned to campus to reflect on his illustrious career during a special event Thursday, April 11, in the State Farm Lecture Hall of the Business and Aerospace Building. The event was sponsored by The Free Speech Center at MTSU and the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies.

Other highlights: 

  • Sidelines began as a student-run, editorially independent newspaper on campus in 1925.
  • In 1938, the first journalism course was taught at MTSU by Professor Eva Burkett in the English Department.
  • Ed Kimbrell was named the first chair of the Department of Mass Communications in 1971.
  • In 1991, the John Bragg Media and Entertainment Building was completed. “Our building is futuristic,” said Kimbrell. “It is built for the next century.”
  • In 2010, a journalism student created an award-winning insert in The Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro covering cleanup efforts in the aftermath of the April 2010 tornado outbreak that caused millions in damages.
  • In 2013, MTSU’s School of Journalism was named one of the “50 Best Journalism Schools and Programs at U.S. Colleges and Universities” by journalism professor Dan Reimold of the University of Tampa.
  • In 2021, School of Journalism and Strategic Media students earned a top-10 win in the national Hearst Journalism Awards Program for its November 2020 TV news special, “100 Years of Broadcasting.”

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