The professional in the age of the amateur: higher education and journalism on-the-job

Daniel Ashton (Bath Spa University, UK)

When in 2006 Time magazine declared that ‘You’ (referring to its readers) were its person of the year, it announced a mode of citizen participation in which election blogging and raw feeds from Baghdad and Beijing have been seen as key examples. Citizen journalism is a major element of participatory culture and is held up to illustrate the blurring roles of producer and consumer and of professional and amateur. This paper addresses the specificities of professional and amateur journalism in terms of higher education. Questions as to the potential of higher education journalism courses to prepare students to be journalists may be usefully explored with reference to transformations in user-created news and forms of collaboration between industry and education. Simon Frith and Peter Meech (2007) have noted a news industry perspective which suggests there is nothing to learn except by way of on-the-job training. This is a stance that is being refined, however, through the increasing importance of collaboration between industry and education, as advocated by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, and as illustrated by British Journalism Training Council accreditation. Through industry and education collaborations students can be prepared as professional and industry-ready, and industry values and culture can be introduced. This marks out higher education as key site in which the notion of the professional can be asserted. This paper frames this issue by comparing journalism with other media industries. Findings from qualitative research addressing higher education trends, transformations around user-creativity, and the development of industry-ready students will be presented.

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