Sunday, November 15, 2015

How did Melissa Click ever get on the University of Missouri journalism faculty in the first place?

Melissa Click, the former journalism
 professor who protested against journalism,
 but evidently never did much —if any
— of it.
So in the midst of real life-and-death stuff — I’m thinking especially of the terrorist attacks in Paris—we 
had a tempest-in-a-teapot event last week.

It involved a journalism professor at the University of Missouri who tried to keep young journalists from covering a public event in a public space.

She apologized and resigned from the faculty where she had a “courtesy appointment,” whatever that means, as Assistant Professor of Journalism.

No big deal. Or so I thought until I sat through 12 minutes and 41 seconds of the event. The event's purpose, whatever it was, has been drowned out and forgotten by the behavior of  Click and the other demonstrators. The video is below. Scroll down now if you must, but then come back here.

Instead of what might have been a forgotten protest event, what we now have is something else:  a permanent Internet exhibition of classic Brownshirt behavior aimed solely at pushing people around and trying to make sure nobody gets to cover whatever the protest was supposedly about.

What the video reveals to me is that what I thought was a brief outburst by Click that seemed to be calling for an assault (“Can we have some muscle over here?”) was instead something much more ominous — part of at least 12 minutes of orchestrated pushing and shoving, aimed and keeping whatever it was they were up to from going public. 

Getting out information is exactly what journalism is supposed to be about. And one of the first rules of misbehavior in front of the media is precisely what Donald Trump has been teaching the world in recent months. If you want attention, behave like an idiot, a willful child, or a fascist thug. Take your pick.

So it’s proper that Melissa Click resigned. It would have been equally proper to fire her had she not resigned. But what puzzles me is how she ever got hired in the first place.

Journalism is both a difficult craft and a noble profession, and among the most underpaid and insecure in both categories. These days many reporters need to shoot video, and take notes, and chase after quotes, and write accurate stories, and put out regular tweets, pretty much all at the same time.

There are plenty of seasoned journalists who are out of work, the consequence of too many publications having slashed staff, or folded, as the disruption of the Internet continues wreaking its havoc.

So surely, I thought, Melissa Click must have paid her journalism dues to join the faculty of a once-and-presumably-still prestigious journalism school. 

Maybe she had been a reporter covering breaking news, or doing investigative reporting for the Washington Post, or the New York Times, or the Los Angeles Times.

Maybe she’d been a magazine writer for The New Yorker, or the Atlantic, or what’s left of Time or Newsweek. 

Maybe she’d been an online reporter. Slate, for example.

No dice.

Yes, she has published. But it’s the kind of stuff you’d expect from a professor of sociology desperately thrashing about to publish some kind of subject matter and avoid the academic equivalent of perishing. In fact,, if you check out Click's CV, you’ll her effort has been focused just about solely on academic  journals and books. 

For example: There's her book chapter, "Fifty Shades of postfeminism: Contextualizing readers’ reflections on the erotic romance series. In E. Levine (ed.) Feeling Feminine: Popular Culture for Women in the Early 21st Century."

Or her 2010 co-authored article “Aubrey, J. S., Behm-Morawitz, E., & Click, M. A. (2010). The romanticization of abstinence: Fan response to sexual restraint in the Twilight series. Transformative Works & Culture, 5. Available at:

She evidently went from undergraduate work at James Madison University, to graduate school at the University of Masschusetts, and then straight to the University of Missouri faculty without ever passing a newsroom. At least that's what both her CV ad her Linked-In page indicate.

Which raises at least a couple of  questions. What were they thinking at the University of Missouri when they hired her? And what are they teaching in a journalism school that’ll prepare the kids there to cover news, or investigate what's behind the news?

Or is a University of Missouri journalism degree in today's tight job market as useless as a degree from a for-profit university?

Okay, here’s the co-author of “The romanticization of abstinence: Fan response to sexual restraint in the Twilight Series” doing her number which I’ll call, “Academics and Totalitarianism: Incomprehensible Role Model Behavior of Faculty and Students For No Comprehensible Reason in Post-Journalism America"


Anonymous said...

She's not a professor of journalism and she never was. She was and is an assistant professor of communications. Her "courtesy" appointment likely allowed her to advise journalism students and sit on faculty committees associated with the J-school. Indeed, she used to be on a committee that guided the school newspaper. Her tenure there apparently died with her courtesy appointment.

Nick West said...

Excellent final paragraph, lol.