Professor of journalism at the University of Kent, Tim Luckhurst, has raised the issue of the gulf between journalism study and practice in a recent review of the ‘The Future of Newspapers,’ a collection of academic essays.
In his Times Higher Education piece, Luckhurst praises the book’s editor Bob Franklin – who led a journalism education conference on the subject in Cardiff in September 2008 – for making the academic study of journalism relevant to journalists and for dealing with the internet. But, Luckhurst argues, it also reveals “how far the academy must travel before its endeavours can make a significant impact on the industry it toils to describe”.
“[J]ournalism academics must learn from the new generation of multimedia reporters,” he writes.
Relevance in journalism demands speed. Published online by their authors as soon as they were written, complete with links and summaries of no more than 800 words, several of these essays might have been discussed in newsrooms. Instead journalists read Media Guardian and academics are exiled from the debates that will define the future.
To achieve impact in the online era, the study of journalism must embrace new working practices, just as it counsels journalists to change the habits of their lifetimes.
Journalism will survive – but there’s no simple solution for how it gets there, or who is going to pay for it. That was the key message that underpinned the Future of Journalism conference at the Cardiff University School of Journalism, Media and Cultural studies last week.
Delegates from 42 countries gathered in the city to hear over 100 papers looking at the industry from a range of aspects:
New media technologies, blogs and UGC;
Sources; Ethics; Regulation; and Journalism practice;
Education, training and employment of journalists; History
Curran’s plenary focused on different views of the future: the survivalists, the new media romantics and those who believe there is a crisis of democracy afoot.
Being passive is not an option for the industry or academics, he argued. It is futile to try and predict the future: the focus should be on moulding and shaping the future where the two can work together to keep journalism alive.
Bettina Peters of the Global Forum for Media Development questioned whether it was appropriate to try and export business models from the developed world to the developing world. She discussed the need for collaboration between the northern and southern hemispheres. Journalism needs to be looking at mixed funding models, she said.
She too was concerned that journalists and educators needed to engage in a global discussion to share ideas and solutions and that the conversations shouldn’t just be about money or tools – two key strands of current industry discussion both on- and off-line.
Conference organiser Professor Bob Franklin, of the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, was keen to stress that this wasn’t an academic talking shop – but a key place where journalists and those studying journalism can get together to share research and ideas from around the globe, something crucial given the massive changes taking place in the industry.
His view was that the conference showed there is no single future for journalism. This was echoed in roundtable talks with journalism educators who were finding it difficult to determine what media organisations need, while journalists in the room stated that the media didn’t know what it wants.
Professor Franklin, like many others at the conference, believes the key to the future of journalism depends on the platform and location: while newspapers are in decline in Europe and America they are thriving in India, and there is a rise in daily tabloids in urban South Africa – with a thriving market in used copies of newspapers.
“The conference was about the future of journalism, and that future looks very different from where you are standing,” said Franklin. “We were talking about possibilities, not about sowing gems of wisdom. There is a future for journalism, but it is a very expansive future.”
Video: Professor Alfred Hermida on the Future of Journalism