Several people have responded to my recent post about the academic takeover of journalism training, including a couple of the individuals mentioned. Herewith, in no particular order, are my responses:
1. Martin Hirst of AUT, writing under his cutely enigmatic nom-de-blog Ethical Martini, asks when I was last in a journalism school or spoke to a journalism tutor. In fact it’s several years since I was last in a journalism school (it was Wintec). I can visit a journalism school only if I’m invited, and oddly enough my post box isn’t jammed with pleas from journalism tutors for me to come and speak to the students. I suspect the reason is that they don’t want their students to hear what I might have to say; it might conflict with their theoretical models.
Hirst says I have a standing invitation to visit the AUT journalism school. I don’t recall any such invitation, and in any case a “standing invitation” is pretty much like saying “we must catch up over coffee some time” without intending ever to act on it. Besides, I’m in Masterton and AUT is in Auckland, and I don’t have a taxpayer-funded travel budget.
I certainly wouldn’t expect an invitation anytime soon from one prominent journalism school whose head, a former student told me, was in the habit of badmouthing me in front of his students. (The aforementioned head of school, it almost goes without saying, is a man with no mainstream journalism experience.)
However I have had some dealings with tutors. I attended the Jeanz (Journalism Education Association of NZ) conference in 2007 and would happily go again if given the opportunity. I don’t have a closed mind. I also have occasional social contact with some former journalists who have become tutors. In general they are people I respect.
2. Martin Hirst also claims that as part of my “long list of errors”, I wrote that Sean Phelan teaches journalism. Wrong. It worries me – and it should certainly alarm Hirst's students – that a man who is proud to use the honorific “Dr” has such poor comprehension skills that he didn’t see my very explicit acknowledgment that Phelan teaches media studies. But since Hirst raises the issue, it’s worth noting that the Massey website includes Phelan in the profiles of its journalism staff. That suggests to me that his role includes getting inside the heads of journalism students with his thoughts on “post-Marxist discourse”, whatever that may be. Hirst urges me to check the facts. It seems he could do with a good fact-checker himself.
3. Bomber Bradbury, according to Hirst, has plenty of mongrel in him. I certainly wouldn’t dispute that. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if Bomber Bradbury howls at the moon. Listening to Bradbury’s splenetic outpourings on Jim Mora’s Panel, I often imagine there’s a nice man in a white coat waiting outside the studio door to lead him (Bradbury that is, not Jim) gently back to the secure ward. But when I lament the lack of “mongrel” in academically trained journalists, I’m not suggesting – and I suspect Hirst knows this – that simply being a noisy non-conformist and exhibitionist is qualification enough for being a good journalist. You’ve got to have proven journalistic skills too, and to my knowledge Bradbury has none. He’s a polemicist and political activist who has no place as a “role model” in a journalism school paid by the state to turn out graduates for an industry he appears to despise and hold in contempt.
4. Samantha Ives challenges me to visit her journalism school (Whitireia, obviously) and praises her no-nonsense tutor Jim Tucker. Fair enough. Jim and I have had our disagreements but I respect him as someone who has “done the business” (he’s a former editor of the Auckland Star), and I’d be surprised if his teaching was contaminated by leftist ideology or flawed theoretical models.
5. I thank Sean Phelan for doing me the honour of naming something (du Fresneism) after me. If he’s so stung by my criticism that he feels impelled to write long (and I daresay impenetrable) articles in rebuttal, I’ll take it as a compliment.
6. Finally, I’d suggest that my academic critics have it all arse-about-face. They seem to be calling on me to justify myself, but I’m just a lone voice in the blogosphere wilderness. I don’t have my hand in the taxpayer’s pocket and I’m happy to stand on my journalistic record, which is far from flawless but is out in the open for anyone to see. My attackers are the people who need to be held accountable. They’re the ones who are paid by the hapless taxpayer to teach the next generation of journalists, and who use this publicly funded sinecure to promote a highly politicised model of journalism that is at odds with, and hostile to, the one followed by the industry that employs their graduates. It’s they who should be justifying themselves, not me.