A Look Back …

It Began in 1912

By Jennifer McGill,
AEJMC Executive Director

The year 1912 was almost over when a small group of men interested in journalism education gathered for a conference at the Hotel Sherman in Chicago. It had been an event-filled year.

In January British Explorer Robert F. Scott and his team become the second group to reach the South Pole, but his entire group died on the return trip. In April the unsinkable Titanic sank on its first voyage after hitting an iceberg and more than 1,500 people died. In May more than 10,000 women marched in New York City seeking voting rights for women. The early November Presidential election found former President Teddy Roosevelt running from the new Bull Moose Party, but Woodrow Wilson won the election.

The talk in Chicago on November 30, in the midst of these world events, was about creating a permanent organization that, according to the Constitution approved that day, would “hold an annual conference of those interested in the teaching of journalism, where opportunity shall be offered for hearing papers on that subject and for discussing them; and to collect statistics relating to schools, courses and teachings in journalism.”

The meeting was convened by Willard G. Bleyer of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There were 23 men present, five of whom were professionals (including Chicago Tribune managing editor James Keeley). Bleyer was elected its first President. Plans were made for a second meeting in 1913 in Madison. And so AEJMC began.

Today our association has grown to some 3,600 members from around the world. Our Twitter feed goes to 3,800 people a day, and two websites keep members informed.

Yet the mission from AEJMC’s Constitution in 2012 still echoes the one crafted in 1912:

“The purpose of the corporation [AEJMC] shall be the improvement of education in journalism and mass communication to the end of achieving better professional practice, a better informed public, and wider human understanding. The corporation seeks to achieve this purpose through the functions of (a) encouraging high academic and professional standards for education in mass communication; (b) fostering scholarly research and inquiry in mass communication and facilitating the publication and distribution to the public of reports based on such activity; and (c) supporting freedom of communication consonant with the ideal expressed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

Throughout the year AEJMC will celebrate our 100-year journey.  Look for facts and trivia on our Facebook page and Twitter feed. We will also have a new Centennial website that launches this spring.

Thank you for being part of our past, and our future.

Information compiled from “AEJMC: 75 Years in the Making,” Journalism Monographs, Number 104, November 1987.

Read the next article: A Century Later, Our First President’s Words Still Ring True