Celebrity, Superman, data processor or Internet trawler?

Deena Ingham (University of Bedfordshire, UK)

This paper explores research on the expectations and understanding of who and what journalism degree students believe journalists are. It is part of an ongoing study into the ways in which journalists are portrayed to undergraduates by culture, those sections of the media which strike a chord with them and society generally. What media are tomorrow’s aspiring journalists watching, hearing and reading and what is it telling them about journalists? Through examination of the media areas accessed by the late teen and early 20-year-old audiences, content analysis enables evaluation of the messages journalists of the future are receiving about who and what they are going to be, or will need to be, in order to fulfil their understanding of what makes a journalist and what the journalist does. Not only does the paper begin to examine the portrayal of journalists in media areas accessed by this audience group, it attempts to address the issue of whether as a result, student journalists are arriving on courses aspiring to be Superman or Eric Reuters, Bridget Jones or Tintin, Rita Skeeter or Jeremy Paxman, or indeed if they believe they already are journalists. The study seeks to consider the effects of student expectations and aspirations on the success of individual students, and the messages these pre-conceived notions carry for journalism educators and the media industry of tomorrow.

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