beginnings of journalism
By Thomas Beell, Greenlee Professor
Journalism at Iowa State began, so the story goes, with an idea “born
in the warmth of an open fireplace” in the Stockyards Inn at Chicago.
A group of cattlemen had gathered at the inn during the International Live
Stock exposition of 1904.
One of them was John Clay, the head of a prominent livestock commission firm,
who complained that few journalists were competent to write about agricultural
|Typesetting, as well as journalism, have come a
long way during the last 100 years at Iowa State. Photo courtesy
of Iowa State University Library/Special Collections Department.
Clay’s comments were overheard by C.F. Curtiss,the dean of agriculture
at Iowa State College, who was sitting nearby. At the time, few schools offered
journalism classes, but Curtiss said Iowa State would be willing to provide
instruction in agricultural writing if the means could be found.
Clay agreed to finance such a project on an annual basis. One year
later, in the fall of 1905, he and 14 agricultural leaders and editors
came to Ames to
inaugurate the class. It was perhaps the first formal course in technical
journalism in the United States.
The need for agricultural and technical
writers led to steady growth
in the program, which expanded to include courses in broadcast and
and advertising and public relations.
Now, nearly 100 years after that first class, journalism at Iowa State
has grown to 51 courses in two majors, a master’s degree program
and nearly 1,000 students taught by 23 full-time faculty members and
To commemorate 10 decades of journalism at Iowa State, the Greenlee
School will launch a yearlong celebration.
The festivities will include special awards and events, visiting professors,
tours and souvenirs, and a variety of activities for current students and
(Editor’s note: Source documents for these Centennial articles
include a 1956 Iowa State College news release; the Greenlee School Web
to Clay’s The Plough and the Book, by John Eighmey; the September
1905 issue of the Iowa Agriculturalist; and previous issues of the Newsletter.)