Press club hears about Ernie Pyle Hall history

Taylor Haggerty • July 26, 2016
Marge Blewett
Marge Blewett graduated from Indiana University in 1948, before journalism had found a home in Ernie Pyle Hall. (Anne Kibbler | The Media School)

On the day movers were taking boxes of files, furniture and other materials from Ernie Pyle Hall to The Media School’s new home at Franklin Hall, Bloomington Press Club hosted speakers who talked about the history of the building that housed IU journalism for more than 60 years.

Blewett, BA’48, retired placement officer for the former School of Journalism, and Joe Young, BA’56, retired Indianapolis Star/News photographer, showed archival photos and talked about Ernie Pyle Hall to a crowd of about 40 in the Indiana Memorial Union, just steps away from the moving vans.

Relocating to refurbished buildings, though, is not new to IU journalism. Before its founding as a department in 1911, journalism consisted of a few classes and the Indiana Student was an independent newspaper. In the 1930s, the program grew, with the newspaper produced in shops around campus and journalism classes conducted in several different buildings.

Blewett gave the crowd background about the Indiana Daily Student and IU journalism’s locations during her days as a student in the late 1940s, before the program moved to Ernie Pyle Hall in 1954. The Indiana Daily Student’s offices were in a World War II-era Quonset hut, where, as editor-in-chief in 1948, Blewett oversaw her staff.

Joe Young
Joe Young was a member of the first journalism class in Ernie Pyle Hall. (Anne Kibbler | The Media School)

Previously, the IDS was produced in a variety of campus locations, some rather ad hoc, according to Blewett. So when Ernie Pyle Hall opened in 1954, both the IDS, the printing plant and the journalism program were under one roof.

Joe Young was among the first students to take courses in the building, previously a storage building that had been completely remodeled. He recalled that students studied seven sequences, including photography, daily and weekly publications, and radio and television.

Around that time, the department took ownership of the Indiana Daily Student. Students could work at the IDS for class credit, Blewett said, and often had to walk through the press room to get to and from class.

“The IDS was the core of the curriculum,” she said, “so it was the core of the building.”

But just as today, programs expanded, student populations grew and technology changed, prompting renovations to the building. In 1973, Ernie Pyle Hall closed for renovations, which meant the program and IDS spread out around campus, operating out of buildings such as the old Delta Zeta house located across Seventh Street.  The renovations were meant to include state of the art technology for students within the school.

“The changes were good, and they needed to be done,” said Blewett, who by that time had been the program’s placement director for several years, working closely with journalism students to find jobs and internships.

From left: Joe Young and Marge Blewett
Young and Blewett told stories from their time with the journalism program with the help of a slideshow of photos. (Gena Asher | The Media School)

In 1974, IU created the School of Journalism within the College of Arts and Sciences. By 1976, Ernie Pyle’s renovations were complete, and the IDS and journalism returned. The School of Journalism existed in Ernie Pyle Hall until 2014, when journalism, telecommunications and film combined to create The Media School, which is in the process of moving to a newly remodeled Franklin Hall.

The move generated some controversy, but Blewett said the history of journalism at IU will survive the changes.

“The name ‘Ernie Pyle Hall’ will still be there, even if we aren’t,” she said.

Former dean Trevor Brown admitted the move was necessary, even if he was reluctant to let go of the old building.

“As a technology-based field, it’s difficult to have a building that can’t keep up with new advancements,” Brown said.

Brown served as dean of the School of Journalism from 1985 to 2005. He worked in Ernie Pyle for his whole career and dealt with similar changes during that time as the photography world moved from darkrooms and film to digital methods. He says the biggest challenge of working in the journalism industry is keeping up with technological changes, and he hopes Franklin Hall can do just that.

From left: Cleve Wilhoit and Marge Blewett
Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame member Cleve Wilhoit, left, and Marge Blewett, right, both worked in the School of Journalism for many years. (Gena Asher | The Media School)

“The moment you build something to work with modern technology is the moment that technology changes,” he said.

Following the move to Franklin, Ernie Pyle Hall will be closed for a year for renovations. After that, it will serve as an administrative building, including housing the College of Arts and Sciences Career Services.

Distinguished Professor Emeritus David Weaver, BA’68, MA’69, said he is sorry to see the move happen. He was a student at IU for five years and served on its faculty for 37.

“It’s sad to see it all come to an end,” Weaver said. “But we were running out of space in Ernie Pyle Hall. I’m anxious to see what can be accomplished in Franklin Hall.”