Can Universities Make Good Journalists

Richard Evans, London Metropolitan University

Journalism education in the UK has experienced a pattern of explosive growth since the 1970s without agreement over the range and scope of the subject as an academic discipline. Taught mainly by journalists who move into academia later in life, alongside skills of reporting and knowledge of law and public affairs, students can be required to develop complex sets of qualities, skills, behaviours and dispositions without detailed consideration of the attributes and behaviours they may involve. Driven by a mistrust of the critical approach of media studies to the practices of the occupation, academic qualifications are still viewed with suspicion by some practitioners who consider an aptitude for journalism temperamental and innate rather than a set of behaviours that can be taught. This action research project critically integrates academic literature on journalism and higher education with primary data from interviews conducted with a newspaper editor, two academics and a focus group of students. Data gathered suggests that a university education can develop qualities and behaviours such as curiosity, scepticism, tenacity and “news sense” through appropriate tuition by academics with professional experience and exercises that mimic the workplace experience. It identifies a role for journalism education in extending knowledge beyond the subject area and the increasing importance of ethics. Forms of tacit knowledge within the occupation are identified and incorporated into a model of skills, knowledge and qualities required of a good journalist and the dispositions and predispositions that underpin them in order to illuminate, facilitate and develop journalism education and promote further discussion among academics and practitioners about the value of higher education in journalism.

Can Universities Make Journalists