Clicks and Bricks Converge


High-tech media programs come together under one roof

Tom Welsh, senior vice president of external affairs for FirstEnergy Corporation, Alina Martinet, WKYC's director of community relations, President Carol A. Cartwright, and Journalism and Mass Communication Director Jeff Fruit pose for photos following the
Tom Welsh, senior vice president of external affairs for FirstEnergy Corporation, Alina Martinet, WKYC's director of community relations, President Carol A. Cartwright, and Journalism and Mass Communication Director Jeff Fruit pose for photos following the "groundbreaking" ceremony for the renovation of Franklin Hall.   Photo by Jeff Glidden.

Eighty years after it was constructed to house teacher education classes as part of the Kent State Normal School, Franklin Hall on Kent State’s north campus will become home to the high-tech media convergence of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Convergence is a term that describes how the school prepares students for careers in a changing media landscape, where elements from print media, digital visual journalism, computer-assisted reporting and online journalism are combined. Although the print and broadcast programs were merged in 1987, they have had to live under two roofs — news, public relations, photo and advertising in Taylor Hall, and radio and television in the Music and Speech Center. Symbolically, they were nonconvergent.

But that will change with the renovation and expansion of Franklin Hall, which will house all school units under one roof in 2007.

“It's hard to run a school well and serve students well from separate facilities,” says Jeff Fruit, director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “We're not building bricks and mortar here — we're building a program.” Fruit adds that university officials spent a lot of time researching similar programs, as well as getting feedback from students on their needs, as they prepared for the move to Franklin.

The Office of Student Media also will join the school in the renovated building, the last of the historic buildings on Hilltop Drive to get a makeover.

Franklin Hall: A brief history

The William A. Cluff Teacher Training School nears completion in 1926. It was later renamed Franklin Hall.  Photo from A Book of Memories (Kent State University Press, 1993).

Date Constructed: 1926

Former Occupants/Use:
African Theatre Arts, Fiber Arts, Resource Analysis and Planning, Northeast Ohio Employee Ownership Center, University Press, Wellness Center, Faculty Senate

Comments:
The first University School until 1956; originally named for William A. Cluff, secretary of the Board of Trustees; renamed in 1956 after Franklin Mills, the original name of the city of Kent; housed the College of Business from 1956-72. Architect: V.W. Surber Construction Co. of Akron. Cost: $350,000.

Source: Campus Building Information. 

Franklin Hall’s renovation and addition are expected to cost $21.5 million, which will come primarily from state capital funds, with $3 million to be raised from private donations. To date, gifts totaling $1.2 million have been pledged.

The FirstEnergy Foundation has pledged $500,000, which was matched by an anonymous donor, to assist in developing this unique learning environment. The building’s largest classroom will be the FirstEnergy Interactive Auditorium, a 150-seat wireless, multimedia facility where faculty and students will be able to share Web sites, images, news broadcasts and other media via networked computers and multiple projection screens. The auditorium will be designed to use technology to maximize student interaction and active learning.

In addition, the Gannett Foundation has pledged $200,000. In recognition of the gift, the university will create the Gannett Collaborative Classroom for work by teams of students in a variety of media.

When the transformation is complete, Franklin Hall will feature wireless Internet access; digital video, audio and photo editing suites; areas where students can practice their work; and a combined convergence newsroom for the Daily Kent Stater, TV-2 and other student-produced media. Flexibility will be a key concept throughout the building. In addition to renovating the existing space, the plan includes adding 20,000 square feet to the existing 61,000.

For more information, visit the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.


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