This is the promised follow-up to yesterday’s application essay. This is Essay B, in which I was to explain why I want a doctorate in communications, what I wan to study, and what I want to do afterward. Here, in (slightly more than than) the mandated 500 words, is my answer:
As a confirmed media junkie, and a subscriber to email newsletters such as Romenesko’s media news weblog and Slate’s daily summary of major papers, a great deal of my interest in pursuing communications as a discipline is self-serving. I do believe, however, that passion for a subject should be a requirement for seeking a doctorate, since I have seen even the most devoted student (in this case, my mother) struggle through a dissertation. I couldn’t imagine doing it without that passion.
I also feel that communications is, in at least one way, the most important of the academic disciplines because of two bridges that it creates. The first is the bridge among the various other disciplines with which it intersects—sociology, history, literature, economics, education, business, law, philosophy, and so on. The second is that it is a discipline that directly affects the public. I believe that one of the journalist’s most important functions is acting as a translator of specific knowledge for a general audience. I think that there is a parallel role for the scholar of communications, especially in his function as media and social critic, as a link between the academy and the culture at large. Some of the best and most influential “public intellectuals” were communications and media scholars even before there were such things.
One of my main areas of interest follows along those lines. As I outline in essay A, I was interested in the act of writing as a career before that interest solidified into a discipline, so I want to look at writers who wrote both fiction and journalism, and at the current bias against nonfiction forms of communication as art. I sense that a convincing link between fiction and nonfiction expression could be made through the application of narratology, and I would like to look into that, and the establishment of a nonfiction canon.
As a nascent educator who has been deeply involved in a large effort to create a “writing and literature” curriculum for my college, I am also excited about studying issues of writing and journalism education. As a Columbia master’s graduate, I’ve closely watched the debate that followed President Bollinger’s committee on the journalism school, and Dean Lemann’s additions and modifications to the curriculum. I’m interested in the professionalization of the craft, and the effort to get past the reputation that Columbia grad A. J. Liebling expressed in saying his journalism education had “all the intellectual status of a training school for future employees of the A&P.”
I am also very interested in media history, law, and ethics, and hope to study those topics as well.
I currently hold a tenure-track position at LaGuardia Community College, where I am very happy, and could return after earning the Ph.D., though I am interested in looking at other academic positions. I love teaching, and hope to continue it; and I think that with both a professional and an academic degree, and experience as both a journalist and an educator, I could offer a lot to colleges that teach both communications and journalism. Wherever I do end up teaching, I want to keep writing, both for an academic audience, and for the public, as a journalist and as a scholar.