The department is honored to host the Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication, which was established in Fall 2002 through a generous endowment by the family of Robert D. Fowler, the late Kennesaw-based philanthropist. The chair brings to the department a distinguished mass media professional as a resident scholar.
The endowed chair is held by Mr. Leonard Witt. In 2002, the focus of the chair was decided by the Communication Department as to advance the scholarship, teaching, and practice of public journalism.
Public journalism's main premise is that for a democracy to work best citizens have to be well informed. To reach that goal journalists have to think of their audiences as citizens and not just consumers. They have to listen to the citizens and ensure that all citizen voices, not just elite voices, get heard.
Mr. Witt, who has more than 25 years experience in journalism, realized that journalists would reach out only so far to the citizens. So in addition to working with journalists, he would have to work with citizens so they could learn how to be heard by the news media.
Mr. Witt is founding president of the Public Journalism Network (PJNet) was formed after he invited 24 of the top public journalism academics and practitioners to Kennesaw State University in January 2003. Founded as a professional organization for journalists and scholars, PJNET has become a virtual network of 10,000 unique visitors each month with more than 600 returning each day. As an international information clearinghouse, the PJNet is a navigation tool to take public and citizen journalism into the 21 st century.
With the advent of the citizen journalism, we media movement, made possible by weblogs and other digital publishing tools, the power of the Internet is changing how the media interact with their audiences, which opens wonderful opportunities and challenges for all journalists. Public journalism provides the practical and theoretical framework to help journalists, citizens and academicians navigate this sea change. The Fowler Chair will be spending ever-increasing time studying the potential of this emerging arena and helping all scholars, citizens and journalists better understand its dynamics.
As philanthropists and friends of Kennesaw State University, the family of Robert D. Fowler, chose to pay tribute to him by establishing the Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication at KSU. The family's generous gift and chair honoring the late Mr. Fowler were fittingly announced on the 70th anniversary of his birth: September 1, 2000.
Robert Dobbs Fowler, a Marietta native, savvy entrepreneur and quiet philanthropist, holds a unique place in the history and heart of Kennesaw State University. In the early 1960s, when no one could have predicted the growth that was to be experienced in Georgia's Cobb County, Mr. Fowler chaired the committee that persuaded the state to open Kennesaw Junior College and selected the site on which KSU now stands. His vision in the world of business and publishing helped influence the decision to locate the institution at the pivotal junction where it still stands.
Mr. Fowler also left a lasting impact through his business acumen and integrity. A former editor of the Marietta Daily Journal, Mr. Fowler purchased the Lawrenceville News-Herald, converted it to the Gwinnett Daily News and led it to phenomenal circulation growth and profit. He eventually sold it to the New York Times Company. His journalism background and civic ties to the community will inspire students interested in becoming journalists to think deeply about the relationship between journalism and citizenship.