Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The start of it all

2015. 30 April 2015, to be precise. This is the date when I'm scheduled to finish my PhD. Six years away. People are already making faces of sympathy and so far I've only done two weeks.
Of course if you're an academic, you're happy to read all day, given the chance. Even if the sort of reading you're doing includes sentences like this: "....they [design changes] emerge from a dynamic media environment that is shaped by technological, social and cultural forces".... Or this: "Borrowing from ethnomethodological, phenomenological and symbolic interactionist perspectives, several studies within the last 10 years have taken a fresh look at news...."
I read both these today and I'm not going to argue - yet, but give me time. I need to get back into an academic mindset after 23 years in journalism and four as a journalism lecturer focusing on teaching students to pass their NCTJ newswriting exam.

Why do a PhD? Journalism is one of the few subjects which you can teach at university level without needing a doctorate. The students in my experience are much more interested in being taught by "real" journalists who have good contacts and industry knowledge than they are in lecturers with Dr in front of their name. I have a proper, permanent job in a university I like, working with colleagues who are also practitioners. My job doesn't depend on getting a PhD (unless my employer knows something I don't).

But even in journalism, and even in vocationally oriented universities like my own, there is growing pressure to carry out academic research. This is where the money comes from, as long as you're good at filling in endless forms and winkling out sometimes pathetically small sums of money from various grant-awarding bodies. The alternative is to take more students, which the government has realised it can't afford any more. Bizarre way of funding a university system....
Actually, my decision to do a PhD has nothing to do with pressure from management. I'm doing it because I want to (and my kind employer has given me a four month sabbatical in which to start). Saying you're doing a PhD in journalism gets a few raised eyebrows. Not exactly an academic subject.....? Maybe not traditionally but there is a growing body of critical literature, case studies and industry analysis and debate. To which I shall be adding with my research into the way UK journalists work in converged newsrooms. And letting my inner academic rip.

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