Zuegner Named to Endowed Chair in Journalism

Zuegner Named to Endowed Chair in Journalism

With two endowed chairs in its ranks, the Department of Journalism, Media and Computing in the College of Arts and Sciences is sitting pretty.

“We joke that we can almost furnish a whole living room,” says Carol Zuegner, PhD, BA’77, the inaugural holder of the Joella Cohen Endowed Chair in Journalism. “But it’s great for our department to have the opportunity to have two chairs, especially as we see journalism and digital media continue to expand in the world.”

Through establishment of endowed faculty chairs, donors provide perpetual support that ensures the highest quality scholarship and teaching. The Cohen chair is Creighton’s first in the academic field of journalism, while the Clare Boothe Luce Chair is held by a computer science faculty member in the department.

“There’s a crisis in journalism right now, from its ethical foundations on up, and who we need to be, as a University, is a place that creates journalists and critical thinkers,” says Zuegner.

“Everyone you talk to says, ‘Journalism is dead.’ Journalism is not dead. It’s different. It’s going to keep changing and Creighton graduates are going to go out into that world ready for that change and willing to work for the changes.”

A 1977 Creighton journalism graduate, Zuegner learned from professors such as David Haberman and her father, the late Chuck Zuegner, both longtime faculty members in the department. The emphasis then was as it remains today — with an eye toward creating discerning, critical minds to report the news.

“I think my dad would be incredulous that we’ve got an endowed chair in journalism,” she says. “But I think it’s something he would agree makes sense, given the world of news as it continues to evolve. I’m excited about the possibilities.

“With my dad, with Dave Haberman, I always felt the sense that I was being mentored, that I was being cared for, and that we, in turn, were caring for the human being at the end of every story. That’s the message I want to continue to bring out.”

In addition to being chair of the department, Zuegner teaches social media, entrepreneurial media, international mass communication, and information concepts and practices, and takes pride in creating a fun and stimulating learning environment for students.

She is also a seasoned practitioner who has worked extensively as a reporter and editor. For 10 years, she was with the Associated Press, and has also worked for the Fremont Daily Tribune, the Omaha Sun Newspapers, the Terre Haute Indiana Tribune-Star and the Omaha World-Herald. She recently was named to the board of directors of America Media, which features a magazine and online and social media content published by the Society of Jesus.

Zuegner earned a master’s degree from The Ohio State University as a Kiplinger Fellow in investigative reporting, and her doctorate in communications from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

With a three-year term, she’s eager to continue to initiate projects that spur interest in journalism and digital media. As one of three leaders of the University’s Backpack Journalism program, which has produced award-winning documentaries from places as far-flung as Alaska, Uganda and the U.S.-Mexico border, Zuegner hopes to continue putting a spotlight on how journalism can serve a crucial advocacy role.

She also wants to devise new ways of fostering data journalism in the curriculum. As part of a department that includes computer science, she sees opportunities to integrate traditional narrative storytelling with numbers that drive home the facts.

“It’s about putting all those pieces together,” she says. “The human element, the data science. We’re a small department, but we’re operating with some big plans that we see at work every day. You still have to get the story, but you’re still always mindful that people are at the end of every piece you write.”

The chair’s namesake, the late Joella Cohen, BS’48, was an Omaha native and 1948 Creighton journalism graduate who had served as managing editor of the Creightonian student newspaper. Her estate established the chair to recognize a faculty member with a record of excellence in journalism teaching and research or creative activity related to journalism and media.

Cohen enjoyed a successful career in news and public relations that began at Omaha’s WOW radio, where she was a news writer and assistant to the sales staff.

For the next 10 years, she worked with area nonprofits, serving four years in media relations with the American Red Cross in Omaha and two years with the Red Cross in Kansas City.

She also was the managing editor of the Douglas County Legionnaire, a weekly tabloid for what was — at the time — the world’s largest installation of the post-war American Legion. In 1958, she moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin, and focused on broadcast journalism. She produced commercials and other promotions for NBC affiliate WFRV-TV.

Two years later, she was named public service director and sales coordinator at radio station WHB in Kansas City. In 1962, she was hired by Savage-Dow Advertising in Omaha to counsel clients on the most profitable ways to leverage broadcast dollars.

Cohen then accepted an offer from Columbia Pictures in New York City to promote the movie version of the television series The New Interns, which starred promising new talent including Dean Jones, Telly Savalas, Stefanie Powers, Barbara Eden, George Segal and Bob Crane.

Eventually, a desire to have her own business inspired her to pursue her love of antiques. She returned to Omaha and became an antique dealer and curator of the Omaha Auction Center.

Her generous estate gift will help Creighton journalism students achieve a standard of excellence that will facilitate their own advancement through the ranks of the profession.