A perspective on the mission of the Ph.D. program inspired by former Professor Haynes Johnson, Knight Chair of Public Affairs Journalism

The Philip Merrill College of Journalism is a professional school dedicated to two missions: First, to educate and train students to become leaders of the news business in print, television/radio, and online journalism. Second, to prepare scholars of distinction whose published works and critiques will advance the standards and practices of journalism and our understanding of the news media and its influence on society.
These missions are complementary; together, they embrace the larger purposes for which the American free press was created: to assist the public and its leaders to receive the kind of reliable information essential for the functioning of the democracy.
In offering a Ph.D. in Journalism Studies, the University of Maryland provides scholars and journalistic practitioners a unique opportunity to study the workings of the media and assess its effect on society in the news center of the world. Intellectual resources on the Maryland campus alone offer a rich menu for scholars at a university and a journalism college that take pride in striving for the broadest application of the indispensable principle of diversity in its students, its faculty, and its course offerings.
Among the highly regarded university programs available for Ph.D. candidates to explore are such subjects as American studies, women’s studies, information technology, public policy, sociology, and a wide range of specialty areas covering the fields of business, the sciences, environmental policy, and studies relating to concerns affecting women, the family, race and minorities. In addition to these advantages, the capital area forms a unique laboratory for examining the professional functioning of journalism practiced by the most numerous and diverse domestic and foreign news organizations operating anywhere. It also presents an opportunity for scholars to take advantage of the unrivaled archival/historical resources available here through such institutions as the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the National Public Broadcasting Archives and Library of American Broadcasting (located on the University of Maryland campus), numerous museums, galleries, national "think tanks," as well as the principal government agencies and departments, the courts, the branches of Congress with their multiple fact-gathering committees and subcommittees, and the interest groups, political consultants, and pollsters all seeking to influence the legislative process and the way issues are portrayed in the media.
With this as background, the Philip Merrill College of Journalism envisions its Ph.D. program as being focused on, but not restricted to, a broad range of general subjects for study. Among them: Media and Society. Media and the Family. Media and Minorities. Media and Gender and Ethnicity. Media and the Presidency. Media and Government and Politics. Media and the Law. Media and Science and Technology. Media and Business and the Economy. Media and Foreign Affairs. Media and Public Opinion. Media and the Military.

The College also sees its Ph.D. program as being created to fulfill the following critical needs:

1. To bring together professional journalists and academic media specialists and teach them to speak the same language. At present, each side tends to talk at cross-purposes. Too often, the journalists are so busy "doing their job" that they lack sufficient time to reflect on what that job is or should be and thus fail to assess adequately the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary journalism in order to improve its standards and ethics. At the same time, too often the academics engage in research that confirms the obvious, thus providing little practical utility, and write in language that is needlessly abstruse. Some scholars offer radical critiques of the commercial media system and the First Amendment under which it operates. Maryland's Ph.D. program is designed to help bridge this gap between the professionals and the academics and indeed to force engagement between the practitioners and the scholars in hopes that each side will gain insights from exposure to the other.

2. To provide a wide range of coursework that acquaints students with various theories of journalistic practice while emphasizing the most rigorous standards of scholastic inquiry. At the same time, the college offers Ph.D. candidates a strong component of history, political science, and social science research that makes use of the area’s resources. In furtherance of these goals, the college stresses coursework on the literature and philosophy of journalism that emphasizes the basic relationship among the media, the government, and society. Essential to realizing this goal is coursework that exposes scholars to archival/historical research techniques and emphasizes scholarly research methodologies. Another strong component emphasizes the vital role of cross-cultural journalism and examines how well, or poorly, journalistic presentation of art, drama, film, books, sports, religion, and cultural manners, mores, values, and attitudes affect or reflect the wider society.

3. To prepare media teachers and critics who will become leaders in training and influencing future generations of journalists and whose published works will stimulate critical examination of the media. Merrill faculty have published widely on critical elements of journalism in society, including work by Prof. Mark Feldstein on the rise of Washington’s scandal culture; Prof. Susan Moeller on terrorism and conflict coverage, Prof. Sarah Oates on the internet and social change; and Prof. Linda Steiner on women and the media.

4. To prepare students to explain the American media system to the world in a way that goes beyond merely defending or criticizing it and helps provide insight into how the media affects the formulation of foreign and domestic policy. In furtherance of this goal, the College actively seeks to attract international scholars interested in studying the workings of the American media as well American students with a primary interest in foreign affairs and policy.

To achieve these doctoral goals, the Philip Merrill College of Journalism is committed to strive for excellence in the professional and scholarly credentials of its faculty, its scholastic standards, its coursework, and its mission to elevate the principles and practice of journalism.