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The Daily Tar Heel

Sitting down with Susan King

Susan King, the new Dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, goes on a walking tour of the campus with the Associate Dean Speed Hallman.

On Jan. 1, veteran journalist Susan King became dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. King replaced Jean Folkerts, and was the only candidate for the position who did not have a primarily academic background.

Before taking on her role as dean, she served as the vice president of external affairs for the Carnegie Corporation of New York. King headed the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education, which was composed of 12 deans from across the country who collaborated on journalism curriculum and industry changes.

King has a long career in journalism, including jobs with ABC, NBC, CBS News and the Department of Labor.

DTH: What past positions have you held that emphasized a multimedia aspect?

Susan King: I ran the Carnegie-Knight Initiative, and when we started it in 2002, Facebook didn’t exist. I’ve spent the last 10 years thinking about journalism education. How could we prepare students to be leaders of tomorrow? I have the experience of researching and examining what the industry wanted, seeing what was happening on campuses and helping to lead the changes with other journalism deans.

In 2008, the endowment sunk, so I had to cut our budgets and think about what was really important. I ran the communication department at Carnegie, and I had to think about Twitter for a foundation. At Carnegie, a lot of my colleagues didn’t do Twitter because they didn’t feel like it was relevant to them. You can’t wait to understand it, you’ve got to figure it out … I was finding stuff on Twitter that was really helpful to me.

DTH: How much of an emphasis do you plan to put on fundraising for the school?

SK: The non-profit world must always be thinking about fundraising. I’ve been working in the non-profit world, so I’m very aware that the mission of an organization is dependent on money they can raise. I believe good ideas attract money.

I’m excited to go out and represent this institution because of the kind of depth of quality. News21 is fantastic. The students win every award. I know what the other deans have done for fundraising because I’ve been working with the other 12. It’s tough times right now, so I understand that that’s going to be a big piece. It may not be the most important piece, but it’s close to the top.

DTH: Do you think the Reese Felts digital newsroom is headed in the right direction? What is your vision for the project’s future?

SK: I don’t know enough about Reese News. It is an exciting prospect. Jean Folkerts made the concept of Reese News and she wanted it to be an experience not only on producing news on campus on all different fronts, but also she wanted it to be an experimental place where they could do research and see via the electronic footprint what students were going to.

On the other side, (The Daily Tar Heel) has been around forever. The Tar Heel has reach. Reese News is still unformed and probably isn’t known by people yet but has great opportunity.

DTH: What about journalism schools makes them leaders in the news industry?

SK: When we started (the Carnegie-Knight Initiative), just on the professional side, a lot of newspaper people said, “I don’t believe in journalism schools, I don’t think they’re important. I want really smart kids who study history or political science, and then we’ll train them.” Well, as the business fell apart, they’re not training them.

Not only that, they were slow to change, so now they need the insiders, what we call the digital natives, to bring in fresh insight. Carnegie-Knight feels that students could bring a lot to the table and we wanted the industry to see that.

DTH: What steps are you going to take in order to tap into the ideas of journalism students here at UNC?

SK: I’m going to learn from the senior surveys and listen to students during meetings. A student who is out the door is no longer worried about their marks and they’re going to be honest. We take those senior surveys seriously.

My plan is to do a senior seminar focused on students … getting a job and a strategy for life. I’m pretty good at the sense of creating a strategy for what they do for their career or writing their resume. I have interviewed lots of people. I am now in my fourth full career, and I think I have been flexible. It makes your life very exciting and you’re never bored.

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