What media can learn from academia

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Emerging from what feels like an endless series of consultations, conferences and conversations about the ‘future of news’ the one thing I’m now sure about is that people think things are changing an awful lot. Which means, whether they are or not (and I confess to being one of those who thinks they are), they will because enough people think they are.

One of the positive spin-offs of this revolution is a newfound curiosity within the media for academia. Historically people working in media think they have about as much to learn from academia as a car mechanic from a nuclear physicist. But now, because things are changing so quickly, talking to people who think for a living suddenly seems quite sensible.

Indeed Anne Spackman, editor-in-chief of Times Online, looked pleased but slightly astonished at how much she had learnt from her conversations with the academic advisory committee prior to her participation in Goldsmith’s Future of News Conference on Saturday. ‘It’s clear we have alot to learn from one another’, she said, and I don’t think she was just being polite.

The technical stuff is the most obvious. Students emerging from university or journalism school are now almost certain to have greater technical skills and knowledge than the generation above them.

But there’s also alot of sociological knowledge that can help news organisations – seeing how news production and consumption is changing in other countries, understanding the uptake and usage patterns of new technologies, and thinking about how social networks affect communication of news .

Some news organisations, like Reuters, have realised this and invested in academic centres to increase understanding (Reuters Institute for Study of Journalism). Others, like Sky, have dipped their toe in the water (Sky is funding PhD research into citizen journalism).

You never know, maybe DMGT, Trinity Mirror, the Telegraph or even News International might decide a little more thinking about the future would be a good thing and stick their hand in their pocket.

Written by Martin Moore

November 26th, 2007 at 1:50 pm

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2 Responses to 'What media can learn from academia'

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  1. Hi Martin. If there had been more time I would have asked the Q about what was being done publically to foster media innovation. As far as I can make out there’s nothing to match the US’s Knight Ridder Foundation in the UK for pumping money into exciting new media projects.


    27 Nov 07 at 4:33 pm

  2. Hi Simon – I’ve looked, there isn’t.

    Martin Moore

    27 Nov 07 at 6:23 pm

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