photo by Steve Lexa

BY LINDSAY HOCKER

Scholar. Author. Editor. Columnist. Blogger.

Now, David Perlmutter has another title: director of The University of Iowa’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The professor and administrator’s appointment to the position was announced in early April, and he is excited to begin on June 30.

“It's a great opportunity to be part of the revolution that's coming in the media business and in the way we teach and study media,” Perlmutter said. “Iowa is really the founding institution for advanced research and professional training in journalism and mass communication. It's the ideal place to write the next chapter in our field.”

Perlmutter is currently a journalism professor at the University of Kansas. Classes he has taught at KU include Ethics and the Media, Research: Theory, Mass Media & Popular Culture, and Political Communication and New Media, which he also developed.

In the classroom, Perlmutter incorporates online journalism tools and trends. While teaching Ethics and the Media during the spring 2009 semester, all student assignments were done on his blog, PolicyByBlog. Perlmutter posts a blog entry about a current issue, and students respond. The students also spend five weeks doing work relating to the social networking site Facebook.

“I love engaging students,” he said.

The search process

Marc Armstrong, interim director of the J-MC School since May 2007 and chair of the search committee, said he feels great about Perlmutter’s selection and acceptance.

“I was happy we found someone as qualified and interested in us,” Armstrong said.

The reason Armstrong said Perlmutter stood out to him is because Perlmutter is a recognized scholar with administrative and teaching experience.

“He’s able to lead by example in the sense he’s already an accomplished scholar,” Armstrong said.

The search for a new director began in the fall of 2007, when the search committee first met. They created an advertisement for the position, which was e-mailed to schools nationwide and places of interest to academic journalists.

About 40 people expressed interest in the position.

While challenges face Perlmutter, Armstrong said he believes Perlmutter will rise to the occasion.

“Any new director in journalism has to determine a course of action in the rapidly changing world of journalism,” Armstrong said. “We have to train our students to meet the expectations of a changing world.”

As for Armstrong, he said he will really miss having the director’s office in the Adler Journalism Building, as well as J-MC School faculty, staff and students. After juggling three UI positions during the 2008-2009 academic year, Armstrong is looking forward to having more time to do research.

The media revolution

One task at hand for Perlmutter is keeping on top of the changing world of journalism. He said journalism is currently undergoing a revolution, a push towards online journalism and multimedia.

“The revolution has already occurred in politics,” he said. He described political communications as a Darwinian environment where things are 100 percent or 0 percent successful. He said media revolutions often occur first in politics and then spill over to other media areas.

Because of the changes in the field, Perlmutter has changed his teaching methods, and how he looks at journalism education in general.

“I no longer tell people [students] you’re here to get a job in x, or to be a y,” Perlmutter said. He tells students not to focus on titles like cameraman, reporter or editor, because companies are expecting young journalists to be jacks-of-all-trades.

“They don’t want someone who does only one trick anymore,” he said.

Which leads Perlmutter to the question he said every journalism school in America has to consider: are we preparing our students to lead the media revolution?

Potential J-MC school changes, and student opinion

The first step Perlmutter will take as the director is analyzing the curriculum and every class being offered, asking himself if it fits with what the school is doing now, and what the school needs to do in the future.

“It might be a curriculum audit or a curriculum demolition and rebuilding,” Perlmutter said.

Several undergraduate and graduate students met Perlmutter at a lunch/discussion session, where many possible changes to the J-MC School were discussed.

Alex Rolwes (senior, Dubuque, Iowa) said she thinks Perlmutter will bring much-needed reform to the J-MC School. At the luncheon, she said one of the ideas she liked was creating tracks, which would allow students to take more classes in areas of interest.

Abby Betts (senior, Orland Park, Ill.) liked the idea of a student committee/panel that would represent the student voice when it comes to changes being made to the J-MC School and program.

Perlmutter would also like to have an advisory board of recent J-MC alumni who could give insight into changes in the field and things that would benefit current students.

John Goodlove (MAP candidate, Marion, Iowa) said that Perlmutter struck him as a guy who could handle just about anything thrown at him.

While he wasn’t the favorite candidate of Meryn Fluker (senior, Lakeville, Minn.), she said she understands why he was selected, and that he seems qualified and adequately equipped to head the school.

“I think he is committed to broadening the J-MC School's technological reach, and changing the curriculum to reflect new innovations in media,” Fluker said. She believes those will be his biggest changes to the school, and that he will make the school more convergence savvy.

Sidebar:

New Director Facts

--Perlmutter writes a column called “P&T Confidential,” for the Chronicle of Higher Education, in which he advises tenure-track faculty.
--He maintains a blog called PolicyByBlog, which is about online politics. The blog can be viewed here.
--Perlmutter has authored five books: Blogwars: The New Political Battleground; Picturing China in the American Press: The Visual Portrayal of Sino-American Relations in Time Magazine, 1949-1973; Policing the Media: Street Cops and Public Perceptions of Law Enforcement; Visions of War: Picturing Warfare from the Stone Age to the Cyberage, and Photojournalism and Foreign Policy: Framing Icons of Outrage in International Crises.
--He appeared on “The Daily Show” in May 2008, where he discussed his book Blogwars. His interview can be seen here.
--Perlmutter participates in the annual BlogWorld & New Media Expo. He ran a journalism workshop this year, and has moderated political blog panels and been a featured speaker.
--His B.A. and M.A., both in mass communications, are from the University of Pennsylvania, and and Ph.D., also in mass communications, is from the University of Minnesota.
--He is a graduate of the University of Kansas’ Senior Administrative Fellows Program.
--A short story of his was made into an ABC Afterschool Special.