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October 2, 2013

KITCHELL: Pyle earned a rightful place on a J-school

It may seem odd for someone who graduated from Purdue University with a degree in communications to defend the Indiana University Ernie Pyle School of Journalism.

Well, it’s happening here today.

If you think that’s odd, you might think the fact that Indiana University officials are considering the elimination of Ernie Pyle’s name from one of the best journalism schools in the nation odder still. We all should.

One of the reasons for a change has to do with merging curriculum under one tent which is somehwat understandable. But eliminating the Ernie Pyle name in the process and downshifting the significance of journalism on the Bloomington campus just isn’t.

There is reason to have respect for the job that Indiana University President Michael McRobbie has done in his tenure in Bloomington. He has righted a foundering ship that only a half dozen years ago had IU alums up in arms. He has done a commendable job of raising the university’s share of government research funding. But as someone who was not born in this country, he apparently lacks real appreciation for the First Amendment of our Constitution or the American role in the world.

If anything, McRobbie and Indiana officials should be embracing the Ernie Pyle name in journalism at a time when more foreign correspondents are needed, when 67 died on the job in other lands last year alone, and when the Internet has made us all closer to the other side of the world than we have ever been. Ernie Pyle opened that door for newspaper readers in the 1930s and 1940s before he was killed while covering World War II. Much of what he did wasn’t glamorous, but it was essential to understanding why Americans by the thousands were being shipped all over the world, and why many of them were coming back in boxes. It was a difficult story to tell, but it was the story of the nation’s “greatest generation” as Tom Brokaw called it. Ernie Pyle was part of that generation.

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