back on journalism instruction at ISU
By Wayne P. Davis, MS 1988
Course offerings in journalism at Iowa State in the early years of the
program were a far cry from the broad schedules now available at the Greenlee
School of Journalism and Communication. A booklet published in 1930 celebrating
the 25th anniversary of technical journalism at Iowa State College carried
a few paragraphs about its beginnings.
The booklet recounted details of a meeting in which the seeds of the
program were sown:
At the time of the International Livestock Show in Chicago late in 1904,
a group of men gathered sociably about a grate fire in the Stock Yards Inn.
They were talking about a subject of common interest, agriculture.
|William H. Ogilivie, editor for the Agricultural
Experiment Station, was the first instructor for the inaugural 1905
class at Iowa State. Photo courtesy of Iowa State University Library/Special
After a while the conversation drifted around to the special question
of how the helpful influence of agricultural colleges and of successful
agricultural experience might be carried to every farm and farm home.
There was mention of the tremendous part that agricultural journals play
making of a better agriculture. And then an idea was broached in which
was the germ of the development of a new kind of college instruction.
This idea was that one of the functions of the agricultural college should
be the training of young men schooled in agriculture in the methods and
processes of the agricultural press.
The man who broached this idea was John Clay, head of a great livestock
commission house, a man with a deep interest and faith in agriculture
and himself a writer of skill on agricultural subjects.
Among those who
it was C.F. Curtiss, dean of agriculture at Iowa State College. These
two men went into the subject in more detail. Dean Curtiss was willing
such instruction at Iowa State if the ways and means could be found.
And Clay was willing to provide the means—an annual gift
to finance the instruction.
On May 30, 1905, after Dean Curtiss had prepared the way for the innovation,
Clay and a group of friends and editors
interested in the project
came to the college to discuss final plans. On this occasion Clay
delivered what may be called a founder’s address, “The Plough
and the Book.”
The booklet went on to detail the growth of the department:
In the fall of 1905 the first class in agricultural journalism was offered.
It was a one-credit class that met once a week. William H. Ogilvie, editor
for the Agricultural Experiment Station, was the instructor. The class
was continued in the second semester. Some 25 or 30 agricultural students
to take the class during the first year.
A few facts will serve to trace the development of the department. By
1911 eight classes were offered to about 200 students. In the fall of
that year, at the request of a number of women in home economics, female
students were first admitted to journalism classes set up for the study
In 1912 the department had two instructors, and in 1915 three.
In 1920 definite provision was made for classes in engineering journalism.
In this year, also, a four-year curriculum in agricultural journalism
was put into the catalog. Following the war, the enrollment in journalism
increased rapidly. During the past few years, an average of about 700
students each year has been enrolled in journalism classes.
Following Ogilvie, the department has been successively under L.
E. Carter (1906-08), C.V. Gregory (1908-11), F.W. Beckman (1911-27)
and Blair Converse (1927-40). It was under Beckman’s charge, during
15 years, that the department made its greatest development.