Crossing the divide? BCU and Lincoln offer a glimpse of the future of journalism education

As a journalism teacher in higher education I am used to getting it in the neck from both industry and academics.

Neither of them really believe journalism is a university-level subject.

Old hacks like to complain that a degree doesn’t teach shoe-leather reporting or how to handle a death-knock.

While academics moan that it is all skills and little research. And even when journalism academics do produce research, industry doesn’t really care for it anyway.

There is a little truth in all of this. But only a little.

The usual moans of “it wasn’t like that in my day” tend to obscure the good work that universities do in teaching journalism skills, media literacy and critical thinking.

But two developments this week may show a future path for industry and academic collaboration.

Today, Birmingham City University have announced the HuffPost School of Journalism, a tie-up with the digital publisher. Driven forward by BCU’s dynamic head, Sarah Jones, and HuffPo’s Executive Editor, Jess Brammar, this is an ambitious idea that tries to tie academic journalism teaching closely to real world experiences. Brammar writes : “The journalists at HuffPost will set students real-world challenges in modules, because it’s important for them to experience some of the pressures (and excitement!) of working in an actual newsroom. We’ll lead masterclasses and tutorials focused on news, lifestyle, politics and entertainment, and host talks to give students access to the best talent. There will also be the opportunity to spend time with the editorial team and the offer of work experience in the newsroom.”

That’s also the ambition of the University of Lincoln’s new MA International Journalism, which has been developed in conjunction with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

I sat on the validation panel for the MA this week and think it is a brilliant development. It clearly bridges the academic and industry divide. It has teaching both in Lincoln and at TRF’s headquarters in London. And a mix of educators, both academics and experienced international correspondents. There’s also the added incentive of paid internships on offer to the best graduates.

What do these developments tell us? Firstly that there is a desire from big brands to access the best students coming out of universities, that they want to shape the training that’s given to future journalists and to ensure that it reflects their needs.

But it also tells us that journalism education has established its place in the pantheon, providing a link between university and industry to hot-house the future stars of a dynamic and ever-changing profession.

Author: Matt Walsh

Journalist

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