Dean’s Hello

By Ken Paulson

Ken Paulson

Ken Paulson

In 1993, I had a glimpse of the future – and had absolutely no idea what to do about it.

For years, I have been dabbling in online networks, including playing primitive trivia games on an AOL precursor called Quantum Link. By the early  ’90s, media companies were beginning to explore ways to put news content online. As the editor of a newspaper called Florida Today, I didn’t want to be left behind.

I pitched my boss on starting an online service that would report local news to area residents. You might describe it as a primitive website, with this qualifier: There was no way to access the World Wide Web yet.

I struck a deal with CompuServe, a then-prominent online service, to post our content. The only advice I received from my publisher was not to lose money.

I did my best. I didn’t lose money, but didn’t make much either. There were too many obstacles. The software was buggy, the downloads were slow and readers had to join the service to access our content. Somebody had to come up with a better way.

And of course, in that very same year of 1993, the Mosaic browser was invented, giving us the means to navigate the brand-new Web.

That bit of history has everything to do with why I’m so pleased to be joining Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communication at this moment in media history. It’s been two decades since the Web changed virtually everything, and the babies born during those pivotal years of technological change – the Web generation – are now seeking an education in the very fields the Internet disrupted.

Where once our college’s obligation was largely to prepare young people for employment in the recording industry, broadcast business, and news and entertainment media, we now have a responsibility to help this generation reinvent these industries in this digital era.

That’s no small task. It means we have to be digitally agile, recognizing emerging trends and giving students the tools they need to succeed.

But that’s just a start. It’s important that we also instill in our students critical thinking skills, receptivity to change and a dedication to lifelong learning.

Our college embraces the freshest of ideas and the oldest of values. Our graduates need to have solid skills and professional preparation, but must also be well-versed in ethics, with a firm understanding of the role of the media in a democracy and an appreciation for First Amendment principles.

Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communication is uniquely positioned to prepare today’s students for a new era in mass communication. An accomplished faculty and staff, the Center for Innovation in Media, the Center for Popular Music, the Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, WMOT and vibrant student media combine to create the kind of collaborative and synergistic environment that will educate, inform and inspire.

Twenty years ago, I had a sense of the future. I now see it in the faces of the men and women who attend Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communication. The future looks bright from here. TLE

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