Researching for news: why the academic publishing model isn’t fit for purpose in the study of journalism

This morning I spotted a tweet from a colleague at the University of Northampton.

And, as people always do on Twitter, I felt the need to respond with a weak joke.

That felt appropriate, as this morning I spent some time reviewing a copy editor’s comments on a book chapter I wrote on the 2017 election.

I first wrote a draft of this chapter in August 2017 for a conference the following month. That was just a couple of months after the June 2017 election.

While the paper has developed during the past two years, with editorial supervision and guidance, the core concepts and structure are little changed.

As anyone who has published academic papers will know, the peer review system means that publication is slow. Academics review each other’s work on an unpaid basis; publishers set long lead times to allow an unhurried analysis of the paper; and articles often go through several drafts before publication.

It is a thorough process, widely viewed as the gold-standard in academic publication.

But it’s not at all useful in the fast changing world of journalism.

Journalism academics are prone to complaining at international conferences that no-one in the industry is interested in using their research to shape new tools and services.

That’s true. I know from my own experience of designing new services for users that the last person I’d ask for advice would be a journalism professor.

That is because when most academic research is published, if it has value to journalists it is as the basis for a story.

Aside from the trade press, mainstream journalists are not that interested in publishing stories about journalism unless there is a wider political or cultural significance. And that implies timeliness in publication.

If we do think there is value for industry in our research, then we have to find ways of getting it in front of journalists more quickly than academic publication currently allows.

At the moment, I think most academics think the answer to this is blogging.

But perhaps there is a more sophisticated system of knowledge transfer that could be developed? I’ve written previously about the way BCU and Lincoln have developed partnerships to create new courses, perhaps that is an indication of the path researchers also need to follow.

I hope and expect that the book chapter I wrote back in 2017 will still have value once it is finally published next year. But I can’t help but worry that its impact will have been diluted by the passage of time.

Advertisements

Author: Matt Walsh

Journalist

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.