Media: Hacks, Hacademics and Time for Debate ; Journalism Matters Too Much for Practitioners and Professors Not to Argue the Way Forward

Article excerpt

Most journalists have always found journalism the most interesting subject in the world, and spent their spare time discussing stories, fellow journalists, editors and who's next for the chop. But the debate, or gossip, was always navel contemplating rather than high ground. That is changing. Debate there now is.

For this we must spread the praise or blame: on to John Lloyd, Lord Hutton, certain newspaper editors, surveys of trust in the media, readers' editors and some academics.

Some journalists feel uncomfortable about British journalism. One is Lloyd, the editor of the Financial Times' magazine and a former editor of the New Statesman. He has rattled the cage for years, but made real impact with the publication last year of What the Media Are Doing to Our Politics, his savage critique of press and broadcasting. He called for a "real debate on what media do to our politics and civil society".

Lloyd wants a new institute of journalism to act as a centre of debate on standards and the future role of media. It would bring together journalists, academics and policymakers. Yes, academics are in there, despite the fact that in a recent FT column Lloyd wrote about the "mutual contempt journalists and academics bear for each other".

There are journalists; there are academics and there are the so- called hacademics, journalists who have moved partially or wholly into the academy. I should declare my place in this spectrum: deputy editor The Guardian, editor The Sunday Correspondent, now heading Sheffield University's journalism department which, unlike many, has significant research activity, and, of course, writing this weekly column. I like to think, and certainly feel, that I embrace both disciplines with equal respect.

I certainly don't join in Lloyd's "mutual contempt" between journalists and academics, although I know it exists. When I edited the News Review at The Sunday Times, one of the columnists was Norman Stone, then professor of modern history at Oxford. He would tell of senior common room contempt for his journalism, not so much for its content as for the fact that he did it at all. Worst of all he had been known to be published in The Sun. In the academy, to be published by Murdoch was shocking. And they say journalists are biased. …