Breaking the News Mould @timeshighered

Breaking the News Mould @timeshighered

The fragile balance between journalism and academia:

Journalism with academic analysis can create material with impact – but will the REF consider it? asks John Mair

Imagine that you are a cub reporter sent out to a story about an equine accident by your news editor. You get to the scene, the horse has bolted, the stable door is open, and all you have left to report is dirty straw. This would not cut the mustard in any local paper, so why should it pass muster in journalism-academe?

“Hackademics”, as journalists-turned-academics call themselves, get hugely frustrated with the glacial pace of academic publishing. By the time they have their story printed – on, say, the Arab Spring or phone hacking – what they say is largely historical. Their work has no effect on practice.

The 2014 research excellence framework will not help. What will it measure apart from weighty tomes from those in ivory towers, treated with little respect by the media industry? It does seem to be Old Boys judging fellow Old Boys. Tellingly, the two most influential journalism books in the past decade – Andrew Marr’s My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism and Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media – were both written outside the academy.

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