WWL, the first licensed radio station in the Gulf South, broadcast from a physics-lab-turned-studio in Marquette Hall.
Loyola University New Orleans has long prepared students for careers in mass communication. Its academic program grew out of an experimental radio station operated by the physics department before World War I. That station became WWL, the first licensed radio station in the Gulf South, when it began broadcasting from a physics-lab-turned-studio in Marquette Hall in 1922. That success was quickly followed by the first edition of Loyola’s student newspaper, The Maroon, in 1923.
From WWL’s earliest years, staff members taught courses in radio announcing, script writing, acting, directing and programming in the English and speech departments. Many continued to teach at Loyola when the Department of Communications was established in 1953.
Loyola broadened its communication offerings in 1931 with journalism courses taught in the English department. In 1937 the department was renamed the Department of English and Journalism. A separate Department of Journalism was spun off in1952 with a curriculum that included news writing and reporting, news editing, advanced editing, feature writing, sports writing, editorial writing, photography and the history of journalism. The Department of Communications added public relations and advertising courses in 1961.
The Department of Communications and the Department of Journalism merged in 1977 into the Department of Communications/Journalism (renamed the Department of Communications the following year). The department offered degrees in journalism, radio, television and film. In 1981, the faculty created formal sequences of study in journalism, public relations, advertising, broadcast journalism, broadcast production and communications studies. A sequence in photojournalism was added in 1988. A graduate program offering a master’s degree in mass communication was established in 1989.
Communications Music Complex
The department’s classrooms and laboratories were scattered in three university buildings until 1985, when the Communications/Music Complex opened. The top two floors were specifically designed for the teaching of mass communication courses. As the department responded to changes in the communications industries, the building proved remarkably adaptable to teaching new technologies.
Hurricane Katrina caused terrible destruction across much of New Orleans in August of 2005. The university was relatively unscathed physically, but enrollment declined, and given the uncertainties of the future, the administration responded with a major reorganization. Along with other programs across the university, the broadcast journalism, broadcast production and communication studies sequences and the graduate program were eliminated. The Department of Communications, however, was upgraded and renamed the School of Mass Communication. The faculty offers sequences of study in advertising, public relations and journalism, including photojournalism, and are weaving digital communication through each of them.