Monday, December 6, 2010

[pima.nius] REGION: Journalist educator calls on j-schools to collaborate

10:48 AM |

Title – 7155 REGION: Journalist educator calls on j-schools to collaborate
Date – 5 December 2010
Byline – Clare-Louise Skelton
Origin – Pacific Media Watch
Source – Pacific Scoop, 4/12/10
Copyright: PS
Status – Unabridged
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By Clare-Louise Skelton

AUCKLAND (Pacific Scoop/Pacific Media Watch): Journalism schools need to go beyond "training" or "early career" models and produce more investigative journalism through collaborations with other academic institutions and collaborations, says Professor Wendy Bacon, director of the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism.

Professor Bacon's keynote speech at the Media, Investigative Journalism and Technology Conference at AUT University this weekend, asked: "What role for the university in the future of investigative journalism?"

The conference - first of its kind in New Zealand - was organised by AUT's Pacific Media Centre.

Bacon said despite challenges as technology and business models changed, there were more opportunities than threats.

No 'dystopias'
Drawing examples from personal experience through her teaching at the University of Technology, Sydney, Professor Bacon told the conference she was "not really interested in dystopia's being painted of the media".

Much good journalism did exist in somewhat difficult situations, including investigative journalism.

She suggested journalism academics ask themselves "what can I do and what can my students contribute as well, and what can I do alongside other journalism academics?"

Professor Bacon argued there was a "need to start seeing the role of a university in journalism beyond the 'training' or 'early career' models."

She said this shift in attitude was important because otherwise it was "a real impediment to what the possibilities are for us".

Professor Bacon used a key example of an investigation students carried out into the close involvement between two Australian companies owned by the same parent - the former being the fourth biggest aid contractor in Australia and the latter being an agricultural exporter.

The investigation was an example of "journalism produced from data" as it required considerable research into company structures and official aid statistics, but was also part of a larger debate about where Australian aid comes from, where it is going, and the level of corporate involvement in aid delivery.

What makes a story?
When looking at getting the investigation published, Bacon said she was told by many within the mainstream media that unless actual corruption was uncovered, it would not be a story.

While accepting that "this is just the way the world works," Bacon argued that "this has become a major issue for the mainstream media but that doesn't have to be the case for us".

Professor Bacon said that the challenge for journalists within academia is to "ask ourselves what is a story?"

"Journalism is becoming an interactive process across space and time and we can develop this to a larger, more comprehensive project," she said.

Professor Bacon spoke of the environmental journalism initiative by journalism education involving nine different institutions from countries such as Lapland, Denmark and the United Kingdom, with the idea to produce collaborative journalism.

She gave the example of a recent project on the use of plastic bags, where her students created networks and undertook field work surveys to put together a global picture of an issue that began as a local one.

Professor Bacon listed the advantages of journalism produced in a university, which included fact-checking exercises with high levels of accuracy, and the interdisciplinary strengths of having people contributing from other fields, often on a global scale.

Although constraints existed, they were predominantly based around a lack of resources as well as threats to independence, which Professor Bacon said could be dealt with using the tools that academia provides.

"I don't want to set ourselves up as heroes…we all have to make compromises and negotiate possibilities," she said.

"But the key is to use your advantages to collaborate."

Clare-Louise Skelton is studying towards a Master of Communications Studies at AUT University.

* Other MIJT conference stories at Pacific Scoop:
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