To the Editor,
Cameron Stewart makes some valid points about journalism education and practice in “Media’s Great Divide”, but the article, and its criticism of academics, highlight a failing of journalistic practice: that it does not reflect on itself.
Media companies might now be under less commercial and political pressure if journalists were more like other professionals and engaged with research into their craft. Unlike lawyers, doctors or designers, the working hack keeps his head down and does what he thinks the editor wants. This has helped disconnect academic and journalistic practice to the point where many editors hold journalism academics in contempt.
I agree with Stewart that not all is well in the journalism academy.
As a former journalist who now teaches journalism, I find myself in the very situation he describes: teaching practical skills but having to simultaneously pursue the higher degree that will qualify me for the job I already do.
But Stewart’s focus on the field of journalism studies – as opposed to journalism practice – and the failure of universities to teach traditional journalism skills is short-sighted.
Research – by academics – shows that newsrooms have failed to exploit the potential of new technologies because “legacy” media thinking dominates. Meanwhile, those preparing tomorrow’s journalists for the workplace are having to imagine jobs that don’t yet exist.
For journalism to emerge from this period of scrutiny in a stronger position will require some genuine reflection on what it does. Engaging with the work already being done by academics might be a good place to start.
But of course that would ruin the story. As any first-year journalism student will tell you, the most important news value is “conflict”.