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Bradley professor cites communications changes since the 1980s

FILE - The login/sign up screen for a Twitter account is seen on a laptop computer Tuesday, April 27, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Musk is offering to buy Twitter, Thursday, April 14, 2022. He says the social media platform he has criticized for not living up to free speech principles needs to be transformed as a private company. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
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“Many students today are interested in careers in digital technology, social media and new media. It’s understandable—they’re so proficient with that,” said Paul Gullifor, a professor of communications at Bradley University.

Some of the changes wrought by the pandemic—remote work, online classes and entertainment streams—are probably here to stay, said Paul Gullifor, a professor of communications at Bradley University for the past 34 years.

Paul Gullifor
Bradley University
Paul Gullifor

Gullifor chaired BU’s communication department from 2006-2017 and presently serves as the Henry Means Pindell Professor of Communication. Pindell, who died in 1924. founded the Peoria Herald newspaper and later purchased the Peoria Transcript and Peoria Journal newspapers.

Technology has brought the biggest change during the time he’s been on the Hilltop, said Gullifor. “We once were cutting, splicing and editing audio tape with razor blades. When everything went digital that blew the lid off of everything,” he said.

Gullifor said technological change is not only represented by the internet, high-definition TV and interactive media but also by how quickly students have adapted to the new tools.

“It’s really bizarre to walk into a classroom today. Students are all on their smartphones. They’re not talking to each other. You can walk in and hear a pin drop. Then class starts and they put their phones away and open their laptops—they’ve gone from one digital technology to another,” he said.

Today’s student engages the world electronically, said Gullifor. “It’s hard to get students attention; they’re often so distracted,” he said.

“(Students) don’t much like confronting the printed word. They don’t like to read textbooks or give speeches but I’ve noticed a huge increase in media literacy. They’re very good with images,” said Gullifor.

Students are not headed for long-standing media outlets like newspapers or radio and TV stations as much as they used to, he said.

“Many students today are interested in careers in digital technology, social media and new media. It’s understandable—they’re so proficient with that,” said Gullifor.

The challenge for today’s student might be to learn how to use social media to advance an advertising campaign or find the best way to use Twitter to complement and supplement a news organization, he said.

“We have some very entrepreneurial young people. I’ve seen students do some extraordinary things,” said Gullifor, referring to students who have created their own business model in communications.

“(Students) don’t have to follow established paths. They can forge their own,” he said.

“I grew up in a completely different media environment. When I tell students I come from an era when we had three choices in television: ABC, NBC and CBS, they look at me like I fell off the Santa Maria,” he said.

Change has come even faster of late, said Gullifor, referring to technological gains made during the pandemic.

”Streaming services saw unparalleled growth over the past two years while theaters, restaurants, sporting venues—every place that depended on attendance--took a hit,” he said.

“We’re probably not going back,” said Gullifor of the move towards increased internet use.

“Online courses also increased. The pandemic forced us all to figure it out—and fast. We have faculty that don’t want to go back. They like teaching online. There are also students who prefer it,” he said.

Steve Tarter retired from the Peoria Journal Star in 2019 after spending 20 years at the paper as both reporter and business editor.