Taft's Newest Addition: The Journalism Department
By Rasha Aly
And then there were 14.
It was Nov. 14, 2017, and Dr. Jeff Blevins had just received
the good news. This good news was more
than 5 years in the making.
The Center’s Board of Trustees had just voted unanimously to
make the Journalism Department one of its humanities departments. This makes a total of 14 UC departments that
are eligible to receive funding for its undergraduate, graduate, and faculty
Dr. Blevins did not know if he wanted to be a Bearcat before
he came to UC. “It was tough to leave
and build something new from the ground up,” said Blevins, who is now the head
of the Journalism Department. The year
Blevins came to UC, in 2012, was the same year the Journalism Department came
into being, as it separated from being a program in the English Department. He arrived at UC, after spending eight years
at Iowa State University’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,
knowing he would be leading the way in reconstructing the department from
And, he has accomplished just that.
One of the biggest achievements is the department becoming
the Center’s newest humanities department. Before, when the English Department
housed the Journalism program, journalism students could receive Taft funding
due to the English Department being a Taft humanities department. However, once the department stood on its
own, it no longer was a Taft humanities department, and faculty and students
could no longer receive Taft money – until that day, in November, when the
trustees voted to incorporate the Journalism Department once again into its
Still, Blevins – the minute he stepped through his new
office door in McMicken in 2012, he had his eyes on joining the Taft Center
once again. When Blevins first
approached the center, Dr. Jana Braziel was the Center’s director. The Journalism Department had just separated
from the English Department and was still trying to find its own path within
UC. Braziel told Blevins the department
needed to prove itself before applying for a Taft departmenship, Blevins
said. Braziel had said, “Let’s see how
Since 2012, the department has evolved. The department hired two more faculty member.
Pulitizer-prize winner and Assistant
Professor Craig Flournoy became a part of the department in 2014, and Assistant
Professor Brian Calfano, who has joint appointment with the Political Science Department
joined in 2016. These two journalists
contributed a great deal to what the journalism department is today.
In 1986, Columbia University School of Journalism officials
awarded Flournoy, his reporting partner, George Rodrigue, and the Dallas
Morning News with the Pulitizer Prize for National Reporting for their work on
a news series, “Separate And Unequal,” that uncovered illegal housing
segregation across the United States.
However, Flournoy, who worked as an investigative reporter at the Dallas Morning News for more than 20
years, says winning the Pulitzer Prize was great, but it is not what gave him
the motivation to do his job. His
motivation is his desire to help create more social justice.
Flournoy’s passion to expose unjust actions in society is
contagious. His students have already
caught the social justice but to use journalism to expose inequality in
different areas of society. In 2015, the Investigative Reporters and Editors, a
41-year-old non-profit, awarded Flournoy’s investigative reporting class with a
national award for the piece, Robin Hood
in Reverse, which focused on how most of Ohio’s university are using
students’ paid tuition funds to cover deficits from the athletics department.
These undergraduate students impressed Flournoy. “They are hungry,” Flournoy said. “They are desperate to learn.” He is teaching the class again this semester,
and the students love working on their projects. Whenever they have an update in their
investigation projects, they call Flournoy to let him know about the news.
In addition, Flournoy will be one of the presenters at the
“Fair Housing Act After 50 Years,” Symposium on March 28, 2018. The Cardozo
Law Review invited Flournoy to speak on the panel, “Origins and Development of the FHA:
A Look Back.” His article, which
will be based on his presentation, will also be published in the 40th
Volume of the Cardozo Law Review’s 40th
And, there are other journalism projects that have gained
prestige. To find out more about Dr. Flournoy's Pulitzer, click here.
Dr. Calfano, was excited to have joined the Journalism Department. “I just thought it was a really exciting
group,” Calfano said of the department’s faculty and staff during his first
interview. “Journalism is very important
to our country. It was useful to me to
be a part of that department.”
Calfano received both his Master’s and doctorate in
political science, but he was always interested in the intersection of
journalism with political science. Being
a part of the Journalism Department allows him to expand upon his journalism
professor published a book, A Matter of
Discretion: The Politics of Catholic Priests in the United States and Ireland,
which he co-authored with Melissa Michelson, a professor of political science
at Menlo College, and Elizabeth Oldmixon, also a political science professor,
who works at the University of North Texas. The book analyzes how priests
determine their political attitudes, and the authors discovered that much of a
priest’s political attitude is based on what the bishop believes. Calfano
co-authored another book, God Talk:
Experimenting with the Religious Causes of Public Opinion, with Paul Djupe,
a political scientist at Denison University.
The book explores how religion can influence public opinion and
Calfano also balances the responsibilities of being a
professor with his responsibilities as a television station reporter for a CBS
affiliate, KOLR10, in Springfield, Missouri.
His news work focuses on political analysis, and soon he will have his
own TV talk show, Ozarks Tonight, which will air in both Missouri and Arkansas. Having a foot in both of these worlds –
academics and journalism – gives him the experience he needs to teach students
about each realm. “It benefits the
students at the end,” he said.
Calfano also added he is he would not be where he is today
without the support of the university for the work he does in and outside of the
university. UC administrators, “have
given me the ball, and I go and run with it,” he said.
Blevins has also contributed to the department’s
success. In 2013, the History Division
of the Broadcast Education Association awarded him first place for his research
on corporate speech rights in the United States. He was also a 2016-17 scholar for the
Cincinnati Project, a local collective which garners the resources of
Cincinnati community members, non-profits, governments, and agencies to conduct
research on four specific pillars: economic justice, health equity, racial
equality, and improved conditions for women.
Blevins’ research for the Cincinnati Project concentrated upon social
media and social justice movements.
Another project is a documentary that has become a huge
Alongside Parr, Professor Emeritus Jon Hughes, and Associate
Professor-Educator Sean Hughes are working on three-series documentary that
illustrates how the scarcity of water affects different, marginalized
groups. Their first documentary, the Intimate Realities of Water, follows
the lives of Kenyans, specifically those who live in Nairobi’s slum
neighborhoods, and the challenges they must overcome just to obtain clean water
for their families.
“It is not an accident that the documentary received so many
awards,” Blevins said. The documentary
became an immediate success. The rewards
the documentary received include “Best Documentary” at the United International
Independent Film Festival; “Best Cultural Feature” at the Hollywood
International Independent Awards festive; and “Best Picture” at the Los Angeles
Independent Film Festival.
Throughout the years, the Journalism Department has received
a number of awards, including grants and sponsorships from the National
Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, Ohio Arts
Council, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Maxwell C. Weaver Foundation, Fine
Arts Fund, Ohio Humanities Council, Ohio Historical Society, Cincinnati
Historical Society Library, Western Reserve Historical Society, Center for
History and New Media, Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums,
the Thomas R. Schiff Fund at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, and the
Lafcadio Hearn Society in Japan. The UC
Department of English and Comparative Literature had begun teaching journalism
courses in the mid-1950s. About 20 years
later, in 1977, the department offered a journalism certificate. Then the English Department, began offering a
BA in journalism. Department
administrators awarded the first degree in March 2006. Then, in 2012, the Journalism Department left
the English Department nest to fly out on its own.
Other faculty members who were already a part of the
department included Sean Hughes, educator associate professor of journalism, photojournalism
and design coordinator; Pama Mitchell,
educator associate professor ; and Jennifer Wohlfarth, director of
undergraduate studies and educator professor.
Mitchell has a joint appoint with the communications department as well.
Emeriti Faculty, who were a part of the faculty when Blevins joined the
department, includes professors Jon Hughes and James Wilson.