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Fast-paced PR curriculum goes for quantity, not quality

By Lauren Means, Special to The Chronicle

It's 11a.m. on a Tuesday, and one of my public relations professors is reading a list of third-grade spelling words.

Acquit. Amateur. Apparent. These words count for grade points. My class tries its best, but we get the feeling a third-grader could kick our butts in a spelling bee.

I told my aunt about the spelling and grammar tests, looking for a bit of sympathy.

"Oh, good," said my aunt instead. "PR is where spelling goes to die."

According to my aunt and, in fact, much of the public, the PR industry not only kills spelling and grammar, but also manners, ethics, morals, truth… I could go on.

So why does Hofstra want to bring their PR education down to the level at which the public thinks we stand?

By the spring semester, a new Public Relations curriculum that enables PR majors to achieve a degree in less time will be in place. But the desire for faster results could cause the inevitable loss of quality in the list of required courses.

The most startling change is the subtraction of journalism courses required for a PR degree.

All of my PR professors have spoken at least once on the importance of obtaining an understanding of journalism. Without mandatory journalism courses, PR students will have no respect for the work journalists do, and therefore, will not forge a good relationship with the media.

Since journalists are the people who decide whether or not a press release or PR information is published, people working in PR should have an understanding of what they look for in information, style, and mindset. Without journalism, the PR industry has no way of achieving their goals.

If my class is struggling with mere spelling, one can imagine how students untrained in grammar, article writing or the essential technique of speaking the journalist's language will struggle when they try to apply public relations in the real world.

I learned in my journalism classes how to construct an article and craft headlines. I learned how journalists have to keep an ethical code in mind at all times, and how witnesses and interviewees must be treated with respect. I learned about the amazing time and effort a reporter puts into even one story.

With such hardworking members of the press manning the media, it seems wrong that some Hofstra's PR students will no longer be required to understand and respect the journalists we may work with.

Just as journalists are dependent on press releases for much of the daily news, press releases are dependent upon journalists actually reading them. The journalism/PR relationship is a symbiotic one. Imagine the presidential debate being held next year without any press releases from Hofstra on the subject. Without the press release, journalists wouldn't know about the event. Without the articles bringing public attention, Hofstra wouldn't hold the event.

As a junior, I will not be affected by the new changes in the PR curriculum. However, freshmen or undergraduates seeking quick majors will be suffering.

I understand Hofstra's need to stay competitive. Colleges are increasingly offering four-semester majors for undergraduates who do not have the time or the money for four years of school.

However, by cutting courses, Hofstra is taking the chance of a well-rounded education from its students. Instead of learning about both sides of the communications and media industry, PR students can choose to take the major which teaches them that the PR field is at the top, and all others inferior. In PR, which already has a tarnished public image, this mindset could prove disastrous.

Maybe once these students graduate, they'll come to realize that they need journalists almost as much as they need a third-grade spelling primer.


Letter to the Editor (Oct. 27)

Why are these people running back and forth?