In 1980, Broadcasting Professor Glenn Johnson took a weekly television newscast and moved it to five nights a week on the university’s television channel, Cable 8, giving students professional experience on a nightly basis on Cable 8 News. WSU was one of the few universities in the country offering television news five nights a week, contributing to a program listed fourth in the nation by the Radio Television News Director’s Association. When a researcher with RTNDA asked television news directors which schools do the best job at preparing students for careers in television news, WSU came out fourth in the ranking.
The strength of the department was further solidified by the transfer of the Speech Communication (later Communication Studies) program from the department of Speech to the department of Communications in 1983, bringing with it noted scholars in the field, such as Tim Hopf, Joseph Ayres, and Robert Nofsinger, and studies in the fields of Organizational Communication, Public Speaking, and Rhetorical Studies. The merger also provided the impetus for the foundation of a Master’s degree in Communications, the department having previously contributed to one of the four emphases offered in the MA offered by the department of Speech. The Murrow School remains one of the few communication programs in the country to offer undergraduate emphases in areas such as organizational communication and intercultural communication in the same department as advertising, broadcasting, journalism and public relations.
Following Heuterman’s chairmanship, Alex Tan was appointed Chairman of the department in 1986. Under Tan, the reputation of the department grew enormously. In 1986, Cable 8 Productions, an entirely student-led television channel, was formed, under the tutelage of Broadcasting Professor W. Neal Robison. Its original offerings included news, music videos, and a movie review show. The station quickly became popular with the student body and has remained a fixture to the present day, winning numerous national broadcasting awards. The department added a professional advisory board, and the Murrow Symposium continued to grow in stature, with noted speakers such as former assistant secretary of state for public affairs Bernard Kalb (1987), investigative journalist Bettina Gregory (1988), and CBS producer and Murrow colleague Fred Friendly (1989) among the dignitaries arriving in Pullman for the event.
These events greatly enhanced the visibility of the department, resulting in growing faculty aspiration. Recognizing the department’s astonishing growth, the Washington State University officially named the department The Edward R. Murrow School of Communication in 1990 at that year’s Symposium, which brought Murrow’s widow, Janet, to Pullman for what would be her last visit. Along with the designation as a School and the addition of the Murrow prefix, “communications” became “communication.” Faculty had decided that “communications” referred exclusively to the mass media and to the products of communication, a term now out of sync with the School’s much-expanded range. The term broader “communication” thus seemed more appropriate. Alex Tan became the new School’s first Director.
|Chairs of the Department of Communications|
James Van Leuven (Interim)