By: Connie Mabin, Associated Press Writer
(AP) The University of Texas, alma mater to a dozen Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers, may cut its undergraduate photojournalism program to focus on graduate studies that emphasize video and other new media.
“It’s a proposal that’s still on the table,” Lorraine Branham, director of the university’s journalism school, said Tuesday. “This program has such a good reputation. We’re not making this decision casually.”
The proposal was prompted because of changes in the news industry, especially a growing appetite for online news. Branham noted there are fewer jobs for photojournalists who take only still pictures, while there is greater need for photographers who can also shoot video and edit digital images and videos for Web sites and other media.
The university can’t afford to keep the undergraduate program while also expanding the graduate program, she added. If the journalism school and the university administration agree, the undergraduate program would be dropped in the 2004-05 school year.
Ryan Pittman, managing editor of the campus newspaper The Daily Texan, said the paper would struggle to find good photographers if the program is eliminated. The department’s reputation helps attract high-quality news photography students, he said. “This is where many of the luminaries from the photojournalism department started their careers,” said Pittman, a senior.
Jim Dooley, director of photography at Newsday in Melville, N.Y., and founding president of the Associated Press Photo Managers, said the university has the right idea in focusing on multimedia, but photojournalists need a strong undergraduate foundation.
George Frey, a former photojournalism instructor at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, agreed. “You have the potential of losing the journalism part of the photography,” he said. “You don’t manipulate photos. You don’t alter photos. You don’t, at times, run the best photo because the best photo may not tell the story accurately.”
The photojournalism program began in 1908, when a physics professor taught the science and art of photography. It remained in the physics department until 1951, when the journalism department took it over.
Pulitzer Prize-winning alumni include Judy Walgren, a 1988 graduate who was part of a team of journalists who shot photos for a series of stories examining violence against women around the world. “I’m sad that they’re thinking about cutting it because that’s where I learned how to become a photojournalist,” said Walgren, now a free-lancer in New Mexico.
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