FACULTY OF JOURNALISM, ST PETERSBURG STATE UNIVERSITY: TERRITORY OF SUCCESS
Historically, Russian journalism was an integral part of the overall literary process. In the 19th century, those whom we now refer to as journalists were writers who wrote fiction, poems, satire, literary criticism, and also acted as press observers. They were, as it were, jacks of all trades. Such were many leading figures of the Russian periodical press: Nikolai Polevoy, Nikolai Nekrasov, Alexander Herzen, Mikhail Saltykov-Shedrin and others. The differentiation of writers and journalists really occurred only in the 20th century with the development of the mass information market and growth of audiences.
The decision of the Bolshevik government to move Russia’s capital to Moscow brought about both negative and positive changes. Petrograd lost resources available to the country’s capital but gained relative freedom from government control. Members of the Petrograd and then Leningrad intelligentsia, who opposed the new government, chose Leningrad University and a journalism group, which came to be known as the NEP or the independent press, as their base. The NEP included such publications as the Literary Bulletin (1919–1922), Dreamers’ Notes (1919, 1921–1922), the Art House (1921), Collective Business (1921–1922), the Economist (1922).
St. Petersburg University saw the defense of a doctoral thesis by the famous Russian philosopher and sociologist Pitirim Sorokin. The defense took place on 22 April 1922 and was conducted as à scholarly discussion of two volumes of Sorokin’s A System of Sociology.
The following decades saw a major increase in partisan journalism; and two approaches to journalism education emerged. The first can be termed the political, Communist party approach, under which the journalist was a political party worker, reared by the Communist Party and educated through work experience, while the second was the philological, university education-based approach, which saw the journalist as a university graduate, a literary worker, part of the journalistic creative process. The latter approach prevailed and as early as the 1920s Leningrad State University started to offer journalism courses.
Introduction of journalism courses in the university curriculum was further encouraged in the post-Second World War period, which saw positive changes in the sociopolitical atmosphere in Soviet society.
In October 1945, Leningrad State University received instructions to open a journalism program in its Faculty of Philology. By 1946, the first year of journalism education at this university, the Departments of the Theory and Practice of the Communist and State Press and the History of Russian Journalism had been set up.
The journalism program was part of the Faculty of Philology for 15 years, from 1946 till 1961. Such prominent scholars as P. Berkov, V. Zhirmunsky, and G. Yampolsky taught linguistics and literary theory to both philology and journalism students.
Many graduates of the program became outstanding journalists and artists. Yury Voronov edited the Leningrad daily Smena, the national Komsomolskaya Pravda and Literaturnaia Gazeta. Film Director Igor Maslennikov made some of the masterpieces of Soviet cinema.
In 1961, the program grew into a separate Faculty of Journalism. The new dean, Prof. Alexander Berezhnoy (1916–2005), was an ambitious, vigorous, hardworking man, who was not only an outstanding academic, author of more than 30 books, but a talented manager as well. During his 12-year tenure the departments of Stylistics and Editing, Newspaper Production, Radio and TV and Foreign Journalism were opened.
Obviously, journalism remained a tool of the Government to instill Communist values in the people. Some of the courses taught at the Faculty were: Scientific Bases of Propaganda and Modern Ideological Struggle, Development of the Communist Party and the Soviet State, Criticism of Modern Bourgeois Journalism, The Lenin Doctrine of the Press and Modern Journalism Theory.
Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika in 1985 gave a boost to journalism in the Soviet Union; it increased the prestige of the profession, but it also created a crisis in journalism education as journalism schools had difficulty adapting their curriculum and finding staff with new ideas relevant to the changing environment. The Faculty of Journalism of St. Petersburg State University was not an exception.
A new period in the Faculty’s history started in 1996 with the arrival of the current management team. During this period the journalism curriculum was modernized and two new degrees, in Public Relations and Advertising, were introduced in the curriculum.
The 21st century is the IT age. Modern information technologies are all the more important in the journalism trade. The journalist, today, should be able to use technology to get his or her information, analyze it and then package it for the audience.
In order to teach future journalists these new IT skills, we should create an environment in the classroom that approximates that of a real workplace. Several classrooms have been equipped with hi-tech equipment: an advertising computer laboratory, a photo laboratory, a business journalism production studio, and a newsroom.
The Faculty of Journalism set up a Student Initiatives Center including a fully fledged press center, an advertising agency and a PR-agency. Here, everything is for real: staff, projects, assignments. The center participants are students of journalism, PR, advertising, design and production. They are united by the desire to apply their professional knowledge and skills to practical work.
In 2006 we celebrated 60 years of Russian journalism education. It was a history of trial and error, but over those sixty years the St. Petersburg State University Faculty of Journalism has developed into a vibrant educational and research school proudly calling itself The Faculty of Journalism: Territory of Success.