Letter from the Director: Dan McDonald

Dan McDonaldI’ll be retiring from this position and from the university this summer, after three years as director and 19 years at Ohio State.  For some of those who read this, I’m the only director they have known; for most, though, I am just the most recent in a line of directors and department chairs, stretching back over 100 years.  Three years is a very short time in the life of a university, but I like to think that we’ve done quite a bit during that time for students in journalism, in communication and across the university.

On the journalism side of things, we have brought some financial stability to the The Lantern by employing an outside agency (MediaMate) to supervise advertising. We’ve also hired Spencer Hunt as Lantern advisor.  Spencer’s done a great deal to make The Lantern even more professional than before, and has attracted national attention as a result.  Of course, the industry itself is changing every day, and so the Lantern must change with it; after I leave, there will be new and continuing challenges, in newsgathering, dissemination and newspaper economics. 

We have not ignored the universe of news, opinion and information available online or through social media.  All of our communication and journalism students need to understand the role that new media play in all of the communication industries, and need to be open to changes in the future.  In the three years I’ve been director, we’ve forged ahead with a social media analytics lab, and we have made a great deal of progress in developing “state of the art” facilities for gathering and analyzing social media posts.  As I’ve tried to stress in my history of communication class over the years, it’s not an “either-or” world when it comes to technology, it’s an “and” world – we keep adding communication technologies, but we seldom get rid of the old – we just update them.  At the school, we are training our students to be citizens of today’s and tomorrow’s world.

Social media serves as a kind of bridge between the study of journalism and communication.  However, sometimes the lines blur, and we believe our students need to be able to discriminate fact from fiction, what reliable sources are, and what behaviors are ethical or unethical.  The easy availability of massive amounts of data, presented in piecemeal fashion, may make it easier to fool some of the people, some of the time, but we try to teach our students to see and write the truth.  That portion of their education is likely to be most valuable to them in the future.

For this final note, I just want to thank all of those who have helped the school during my time here as a professor and as director.  So many of our alumni, faculty, staff and students have done their part in helping make Ohio State’s School of Communication so great. Thank you so much.