Journalistic insights

October 16, 2008

Journalism has long been a target for lazy and ill-informed academics who have not experienced the demands of a newsroom. I do not believe that Bob Franklin and Julian Petley are among them, but their letter ("Good news for journalism", 2 October) has made me wonder.

I made it plain when I accepted my position (as director of the Centre for Journalism) at the University of Kent that I did not regard journalism as a discrete academic discipline. It is a profession in which the most able practitioners' work is informed by assorted areas of learning.

I reached this conclusion because it reflects my extensive experience of recruiting and employing diligent, critical and ethically aware graduates to work in broadcasting, in print and online.

My colleagues and I in the Centre for Journalism know how rigorously educated and trained our students must be if they are to compete for jobs. They will face intense competition, so we have devised a programme of study that will equip them academically and professionally.

If Franklin and Petley really doubt that we know what we are doing, perhaps they would like to come and visit us. They will find us intensely aware of the demands of the news industry and determined to equip a new generation to hold power to account.

I am sorry if Franklin and Petley find that threatening. The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) does not. It believes that our BA in journalism and the news industry "has the potential to lead the field of undergraduate courses" and that it may "provide a benchmark for others running journalism degree courses to aspire to".

There are many degree courses that contain the words "journalism" and "media" in their titles and yet would not dare to apply for NCTJ accreditation. Few of them approach the standards of excellence that are required to earn a living as a journalist. I think Franklin and Petley know that.

Serious competition is hard to handle, but it has always been good for British journalism; we believe that it is equally good for academics who claim to teach the knowledge and skills journalists need.

Tim Luckhurst, Professor of journalism, University of Kent.

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