Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Era of Newspaper and Magazine Journalism Degrees and the AJ ( Academic-Journalist)

Instyle Editor talks to Masters in Journalism students about the need to hire the new generation.

It was bound to happen. The relationship between academia and publishers has been long standing. In the 1970s their relationship manifest itself in a publishing boom.

Where else might it explore? Academia publishing their own books, and publishers offering their own degrees? To one of the party plan A would remain too distant a concept.  

But the centrifugal forces of the dissociative economy are turning those pipe dreams now into concrete channels.

Super brand Vogue magazine's announcement it would start its own journalism degree at the Conde Nast College of Fashion and Design laid the foundation. Competitors, you'd imagine, might either have been falling to the floor with laughter at morning editorials while the more sanguine were trying to crunch the numbers.

Across town Academia was faring in a different way with mutterings: "They're having a laugh, it'll never work! "

Oh but it will ! The writing's been, well, er, slowly taking shape literally on the IPad.

Now in the UK an unspecified number of newspapers are looking to announce their own degrees. At the moment it's Chatham House rules, the equivalent of a super injunction.

Welcome to one future of journalism - brought on by the cause and effect of the Internet / Outernet

Future Watch 

The Internet out of its net- The Outernet from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

But then many outfits have already been offering some form of pedagogy in the shape of higher national certificates. The Press Associations has been one of the major participants with links with skillset or recognisable accrediting bodies.

In 2005 it successfully launched and sustained an accredited videojournalism programme for it's regional press. I worked with their head of training, Tony Johnston,  devising the inaugural programme.

BBC Camerawoman and film maker Christina Fox took the helm bringing in her rich knowledge for its six years while I played an integral part captured in this Press Gazette report.  Close to some two hundreds journos were trained.

The Daily Telegraph, working with the Press Association,  offers an accredited training regime to 12 young very fortunate journalists, whereby psychometric testing is one of the selection criteria.

Many have gone on to do extremely well. Unsurprisingly they got the integrated form of videojouralism I advocate very quickly.

But a degree, Masters or even, say, a PhD, well that's another matter?  We've an inkling how we've got here; finance, sales and projections, and how seemingly one piece of technology provides hope on the Net.

As the Wall Street Journal commented
...with the iPad they (Magaziine Publishers) feel they have a technology that best marries the splashy look and size of a full-page print ad with the cool interactive features of a digital ad—and the ability to count how many people saw it.

The IPad Movement
The IPad has become the Tabula rasa of the web. In my lectures it's my interactive interface between working new ideas from the student enclose and projecting those ideas on the screen.

With the IPad, I can control the screen, and the raised platform barrier of the them and us - lecturer/ student

And the tech-fest, rights of social networking have never made the link with savvy young journalists more clear.

Last year, I accompanied a group of students (see top) to one of the UK's most successful womens' titles, Instyle.  Its editor, Emily Dean, stressed the importance of the new generation of journalists needed who can see this new future of journalism.

One enterprising students, a diligent blogger, duly pulled her CV from her inner coat and snuck it over to Ms Dean's and won some invaluable work time.

The idea of bespoke universities, and no one has a monopoly on knowledge, seems tangible. If you wanted to play for Manchester United one of your routes as the golden boys of Giggs, Beckham, Scholes et al  proved was to get trained young by attending their academy

Likewise tennis has its grooming for professional status at a tender age. So why not a journalistic output with a degree to boot.

Of course it raise interesting questions:
  • What is it worth ?
  • What happens if you leave the publisher before you've finished ?
  • What would a publication do that journalism schools aren't doing already ?
A lot I might say, but this is the beginning and in spawning a refined area of entrepreneurial journalism, those questions will get worked through.

Significantly though, this won't necessarily spell the end of tertiary institutions, though if this publishers make the figures work, it'll be interesting to see how the adoption of generic journalism degrees do against the bespoke, which might offer generic subject, plus a deeper understanding of the clients workings.

But the winners in this scenario are not just the publishers, or even applicants, but forward thinking institutions who will be offering support in the myriad areas professional learning calls on.

And then, as is slowly emerging, the new AJ ( Academic Journalist) whom balances practical knowledge and heuristics with classic and contemporary theory of journalism.  For the moment though all eyes are on which publishers gets off the blocks.