The following is a guest blog post from Dr. Brian Steffen, professor and chair of the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Simpson College. This was originally published on the Small Programs Interest Group (from AEJMC) listserv in slightly different form and is reprinted here with Brian’s permission.
As you may recall, Mizzou communication professor Dr. Melissa Click came to prominence on Monday when she was among a group of protestors on the Mizzou campus who tried to turn away a photographer and video journalist from a tent city set. She became famous when video showed her saying, “All right, who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.” Click has since apologized for her remarks and behavior.
In this post, Dr. Steffen provides a possible explanation of why Dr. Click expressed herself the way she did.
Please do not in any way take this post as a defense of Mizzou communication professor Dr. Melissa Click. Perhaps consider it a weak attempt at explanation:
The mass media prof is not part of the journalism school. Many of us have journalism, mass media, speech and that blob of disciplines known as ‘communication’ all wrapped up in one department for the sake of administrative ease. My sense is that the School of Journalism at Mizzou (the world-famous program) has about as much to do with the communication department as it does with the French or geography departments.
And we know that the media studies programs often are filled with scholars coming out of cultural studies and critical-theory schools of thoughts — intellectual projects that critique the press as an instrument of social and corporate power rather than embrace it as a defender of democracy. If the prof wants to point out that it’s her belief that the photographer is a representative of the very system that she and the others are protesting, that’s a legitimate point of debate in which we can engage.
Of course, for the prof to call for ‘muscle’ to prevent the photojournalist (who was a student, incidentally) from getting this story is much more than a critique and indeed is state-sanctioned censorship. And it’s yet another example of how the university is quickly becomig hostile to First Amendment values all in the name of empowering the powerless.
I, too, am outraged by this. But I think I have much less surprise than others at the fact that it happened.
–Dr. Brian Steffen