Daniel James Sundahl
Professor of English
Director, American Studies Program
Daniel Sundahl has taught English at Hillsdale College for sixteen years. Since 1992, he has also chaired the Hillsdale College Program in American Studies. He has published numerous articles, book reviews, and poems in such periodicals as Commonweal, First Things, Image, and the University Bookman. Two books of poems are in their second printing and a third collection is being readied for publication.
Dr. Sundahl holds degrees from Gustavus Adolphus College, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Utah.
A recent nationally syndicated cartoon in one of the country’s largest daily newspapers portrays a young woman walking by the front window of a newspaper office. She does a double-take as she reads the "Help Wanted" sign in the front window: "EDITOR’S WANTED: ENQUIRE WITHIN."
The cartoon is laughable, but it is also painfully accurate. Quality journalism and high standards are all too rare these days. Rather than raise the level of public debate, it seems that journalists have provided a steady diet of sensationalism for "enquiring" minds.
In October, Hillsdale College responded by establishing the Herbert H. Dow II Program in American Journalism. The College believes a fundamental change is needed in media practices.
Understand please, that it is common these days for journalists to advise aspiring writers not to major in journalism. Hillsdale agrees, but goes one step farther. We believe journalists need a broad-based preparation not only in the traditional liberal arts but in the traditional ethics that have served our nation so well for the past 200 years.
The mission statement of the program reflects our philosophy:
"The Herbert H. Dow II Program in American
Journalism is devoted to the restoration of ethical,
high-minded journalism standards and to the
reformation of our cultural, political, and social
practices. Through academic challenge and
practical application, the program seeks to educate
students to become defenders of our American
heritage and the legacy of first principles intended
by our Founding Fathers."
How It Works
The program has three components. The academic component consists of four courses emphasizing the history of American and international journalism.
Students who complete the academic component will be educated in the history of the media, will be knowledgeable about the major figures in their profession, and will be aware of-on philosophical, moral, and practical levels-the most important issues and themes that relate to the news and the makers of the news.
The practicum component consists of two hands-on practical writing courses during which students learn the fundamentals of good writing and reporting.
The internship component consists of active involvement in the day-to-day life of a newspaper or a magazine.
There are 24 total semester hours in the program, which is open to all students enrolled at Hillsdale Colelge.
A Unique Program
What is unique about the Dow Journalism Program? First, there are few academic programs that emphasize not only the history of the media but also the role it has played on the realm of public debate and in our country’s history. Second, the program is neither a major nor a minor. Instead, it is a course concentration that a student adds to his or her selection of a traditional liberal arts major. Third, through the practicum and internship, students gain the hands-on training needed to become competent journalists.
Thus the Dow Journalism Program is not only an innovation but also an alternative. And it is what our country’s enterprising leaders intended.
During America’s earliest years, a group of brilliant minds came together for the purpose of examining and institutionalizing the idea of freedom. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are the Founding Fathers’ testament to the role of freedom in modern civilization. Appropriately, they believed a free press was vital for a creative society and was one of its chief protectors. If freedom were to prevail, it would be through an informed public’s knowledge of the issues.
The important question in the latter years of the 20th century is whether today’s journalists are patiently and humbly preserving our liberty or abusing it.
Journalists are educators with an ethical responsibility to the community. They contribute to the standards of civilized conduct. They help determine and influence public beliefs. In this context, we at Hillsdale are confident that the students who fulfill the requirements of the Herbert H. Dow II Program in American Journalism will be best prepared to revitalize the Founding Fathers’ sense of America’s mission and the role of a free press in seeing that mission become a realty.