Leader: Build on existing blocks

January 20, 2006

With reporters rivalling estate agents at the bottom of rankings of public trust and esteem, the news that Oxford University is to establish an Institute for the Study of Journalism is to be welcomed. In his controversial book, What the Media Are Doing to Our Politics , John Lloyd, the Financial Times journalist who is one of many big names behind the project, described a world in which journalism and public affairs inhabit parallel universes. He argued that a vicious circle of distrust has developed between journalists and politicians based on the "shallow thrill of interrogation" - a cycle that deprives the public of the real information they need.

Oxford has placed its new institute in the department of politics and international relations at Green College to help break down these barriers. Its aim is to be "hardwired into key issues of social policy". But the institute must be careful not to create parallel universes of its own. Media studies have been thriving in new universities for decades and some, such as the course at Westminster University, have strong research records in this field. Oxford can often attract the big bucks that other universities cannot. But the new institute must ensure that it builds on the work of all academics in this field - this is no time for parallel universes.

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