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Charles Edwards, in first year as dean, adds to programs


Charles Edwards, the former Des Moines Register publisher-turned-journalism school dean, has been at his new job for one year and already has much to show for it.  

Edwards, named to head Drake University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication last March, has lined up new apprenticeship agreements with Register owner Gannett Co. and Des Moines media giant Meredith Corp.

A year ago, Edwards said he wanted to expand the school’s already solid commitment to real-world training. Part of that strategy would involve technology, one of his passions. Additionally, he intended to tap his considerable contacts – which come from both his family and his years of work experience – to strengthen the school’s relationship with the community.

Today, he has accomplished those goals.

He and the Drake journalism faculty, which numbers 15 tenured professors and several non-tenured lecturers, have changed the core courses required of journalism majors, adding a class that focuses on better understanding and writing about different cultures. The school has also begun publishing student stories daily on the Internet to give a heightened sense of realism to schoolwork.

“There’s nothing like being published,” Edwards said of the school’s new Digital Daily News product. “We’re looking for ways to distribute students’ work outside the classroom.”

Under Drake’s agreement with Meredith, students will compete for six yearlong apprenticeship to work there. The students will be paid and will be expected to work an average of 20 hours each week. The program will begin in the fall and could expand. Meredith has committed to the program for five years.

“Charlie is exactly what a journalism school needs,” said Meredith Corp. spokesman Art Slusark, who worked with Edwards to finalize the apprenticeship program. “He’s got working journalism experience and vision. He’s worked on both the editorial side and the business side of newspapers.”

A similar arrangement with Gannett will let students work at the Register for a semester at a time. That program, which will also begin this fall, will start more modestly. As many as three students could begin working at The Register at the start of the fall semester. Drake professors will closely oversee the participating students.

For Drake, there is a great deal of appeal for such programs. Its students get more real-world training, skills that are needed to win jobs. Making its graduates more employable can help the university draw strong journalism students from across the country more effectively.

Meredith benefits by having a top-flight training ground for writers and editors in its back yard.

With the Meredith and Gannett agreements have come money for Drake. Meredith donated $500,000 over five years, as did the Meredith family’s foundation. Drake has also won a $20,000 grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which generally works to help disadvantaged children in the United States, to develop a magazine written and produced by students.

Some of the new funding will be used to help faculty members conduct research and improve their teaching, he said.

Edwards said the enthusiasm and the effectiveness of the school’s students and professors have surprised him.

“The energy here is boundless,” he said. “My goal is to make Drake the No. 1 journalism school in the Midwest.”

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