Marketing Is Not Journalism

Northwestern University's esteemed J-school changed its name to embrace the evolution of media, but does new technology alter the basics of journalism?

Call it name shame.

As a graduate of Northwestern University’s esteemed Medill School of Journalism, I was mortified when NU’s board of trustees last week approved the “expansion” of Medill’s formal name to …

The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

No “and,“ no ampersand, two commas and 24 syllables. Perfect for students entering a field that values economy of expression.

Let’s give a cheer for MSJMIMC!

I understand that universities must adapt to changing times. When I was a graduate student at Medill, the most popular area of concentration was newspapers (cue laughter.) We looked down on advertising majors. Ours was the truer, higher calling, particularly in the era of Watergate.

Today, you’d be hard pressed to find any Medill student who reads newspapers, at least in dead-tree form. And now something called Integrated Marketing Communications, a teaching field that Medill invented in the early ’90s, will share the J-school’s name.

I am Old School, and proud of it. Any phrase that includes “marketing” reeks of commerce and therefore should be entirely independent from journalism. Medill was established in 1921 as a journalism school, and journalism is what has kept it among the elite. Technologies change; the basics of good journalism remain constant.

It’s one thing to offer a wide range of courses and majors, but to raise IMC to the level of ownership is an insult to the school’s namesake, Joseph Medill, a founding editor of the Chicago Tribune and a former mayor of the Windy City.

Moreover, it’s hard to imagine a more awkward, inelegant name

I am not alone among Medill alums here.

“Northwestern won’t get another dime out me until they put up a wall nine stories high between journalism and “integrated marketing,” says Lillian Swanson, an 18-year Inquirer veteran who is now managing editor of The Forward.

“Are they also offering certificates in ‘segregated marketing’?” Swanson adds. “This doesn’t pass the sniff test.”

Says Inky metro columnist Dan Rubin: “If I were inclined to contribute any money to that amalgamation of competing interests, I’d direct my donation toward an ampersand.”