WJEC Declaration of Principles of Journalism Education

Last week in Singapore, at the first-ever World Journalism Education Congress, journalism educators from around the world adopted the Declaration of Principles of Journalism Education (full text posted at Rebecca MacKinnon’s blog). I so desperately wanted to attend the conference, but my obligation to my own university’s U.S. Study Institute on Journalism and Media made it impossible.

From the preamble of the declaration:

Journalism should serve the public in many important ways, but it can only do so if its practitioners have mastered an increasingly complex body of knowledge and specialized skills. Above all, to be a responsible journalist must involve an informed ethical commitment to the public.

The 11 principles adopted are quite good. I like three in particular.

Item No. 3:

Journalism educators should be a blend of academics and practitioners; it is important that educators have experience working as journalists.

Item No. 7:

Most undergraduate and many masters programs in journalism have a strong vocational orientation. In these programs experiential learning, provided by classroom laboratories and on-the-job internships, is a key component.

Item No. 10:

Journalism is a global endeavor; journalism students should learn that despite political and cultural differences, they share important values and professional goals with peers in other nations. Where practical, journalism education provides students with first-hand experience of the way that journalism is practiced in other nations.

I think all of us need to pay more attention to No. 10 nowadays. Our planet is too small for any of us to operate in isolation any longer.

Read the complete declaration at Rebecca’s blog, RConversation. Rebecca teaches journalism at the University of Hong Kong, and her blog points to a lot of interesting information coming out of China.

There’s a good column about the WJEC declaration and its goals by journalist Guy Berger at the Mail & Guardian Online (South Africa). He teaches journalism at Rhodes University, in Grahamstown, South Africa.

10 Comments on “WJEC Declaration of Principles of Journalism Education

  1. I’m not so sure that this declaration of principles is really all that valuable. It mentions responsibility, but not freedom or truth. It talks about the obligations of journalism educators, but not about passion and inspiration. I think we can do a lot better.

  2. I would argue that those ideas are covered in item No. 6:

    “Journalism program graduates should be prepared to work as highly informed, strongly committed practitioners who have high ethical principles and are able to fulfill the public interest obligations that are central to their work.” Describing our ethics falls to our various professional organizations (to which the educators look for present-day practices and norms).

  3. I totally agree with Martin I met there (I was also at this Conference) and I would to add this point about the WJEC Declaration of Principles of Journalism Education. Even if it’s mentioned in the point 4 that “It includes coursework on the social, political and cultural role of media in society and sometimes includes coursework dealing with media management and economics”, I would to stress to my j-educators and journalists colleagues that in the future we have to emphasize the training and education in Economics and Media Management. Basically in order to (1) acclimate better the young journalists with these issues they don’t usually care (unfortunately), especially in France; and (2) give them the tools (that could be become weapons in this economic turmoil) to manage their newspapers. I indeed state that media companies should be managed by both journalists and people coming from other sectors.

    I argue this point (media economics and management education and training) has to be one of the main issues to be dealt with by us (journalists, and j-educators) and not be neglected or relegated to a position of secondary importance (as — unfortunately — in the curriculum designed by UNESCO which relegate Media economics and management as the last two courses to be taught as electives!!!!)

  4. Matthieu, you make a very good point. I think it is difficult today to add a course about media economics and management — because the curriculum is packed full of skills training that the students really need to get a job.

    Also, young students are so far from management jobs (in years), it might seem that the undergraduate years are the wrong time to teach this.

  5. I came away from Singapore seriously wondering whether the WJEC movement and I — even AMIC and I — are even on the same planet, to tell you the truth.

    I’m afraid my enduring impression was of a bottle of last year’s olives … tasty in their day but beyond their use-by date.

    Specifically, the statement of principles on journalism education mentions the word “students” only twice and “graduates” only once.

    On the first occasion the statement mentions the “value of journalism education” for students (and employers and the public).

    On the second and third occasions the statement issues imperatives to students and graduates, that they “should be prepared to work” and “should learn”.

    I’m afraid I find this discourse unacceptable in a student-centred learning environment … it’s far too instructivist for me and frankly, not supported by contemporary literature or my own research into how students learn at university.

    The net result is that the WJEC declaration of principles of journalism education speaks (as far as I can tell) solely about the educators and their staid vision of “journalism” and not at all about the students or how they see journalism operating in the new world in which we find ourselves.

    And I think anyone reading it (e.g. students) will see instantly that it portrays journalism educators as self-referencing top-down instructors stuck in a pattern and mind-set which, if it ever existed, certainly will not exist when the students themselves start their working lives.

    I agree with others who have commented that UNESCO and apparently AMIC ideas of “the universality of journalism and journalism education (are) extremely dangerous, and could easily lead to the imposition by the strongest on the rest, colluding with globalism and journalistic imperialism at the expense of localised journalism and journalism education fit for local purpose rather than adhering to some kind of universal (inevitably Western) approach”.

    I was saddened to hear fellow journalists and journalism educators from Africa, Indonesia and India [and not surprised to hear them echoed among Europeans and Americans] citing US-grown Fourth Estate models of journalism as the only models worth anything … what they are actually saying is this is the only model “worth preserving” and frankly we should not be in the business of preserving anything about journalism.

    We of all people should be in the business of working experimentally in the garden of journalism, uprooting and discarding old dead wood, pruning where necessary and nurturing new shoots and seeing what’s coming on … looking forwards, not backwards.

    If we journalists in the academy can’t be relied on to experiment and find new and better ways in journalism, no one can. Many valued practitioners I speak with can’t even imagine such a thing as “a new and better way in journalism”.

    But we *need* to imagine it, research it, and find ways of growing it. Otherwise journalism will become moribund and start looking like … oh oh … globalised, corporate so-called “news organisations” … not mentioning any names …

  6. John, I agree with you that education today is more student focused than in the past. But journalism is not a little gift we are giving to the students. In my opinion, journalism is a calling, a cornerstone of a liberal democracy, and journalism educators are preparing future practitioners. I think the declaration represents that pretty well. If a Fourth Estate model is bad, what would you propose to replace it?

    I think perhaps our colleagues in the developing countries admire a Fourth Estate model because it would be an improvement over the in-the-government’s-pocket model under which many of them labor today.

    I do not believe every country should adopt a Western model of journalism practice. But the flag of “development journalism” has been waved more often over the greedy interests of a corrupt government than it has been in the public interest.

  7. Pingback: hackademic.net — journalism • learning • teaching = journalism education » Journalism education: matters of principle(s) from WJEC

  8. Jonathan Hewett in his Hackademic.net posting (see above) makes the point that teaching and learning in journalism needs to reflect more of the characteristics of digital journalism (and Web 2.0).

    The list of characteristics he suggests reflects nicely the approach I have followed here at the University of Queensland (Australia) since 2005 and at other universities since 2000 and it’s proving successful, but of course very personally challenging (to me as well as to students).

    Students perform well but some resist (sometimes kicking and screaming) my efforts to encourage peer-assessment, self-assigned projects, inquiry-based learning and any kind of real collaboration.

    These, however, are precisely the traits working journalists MUST display on the job and in their various newsroom environments, but try getting a “Big Media” employer to acknowledge this! Oh no, they keep bleating for “good old-fashioned” skills such as “finding stories”, shorthand and a willingness to “do as they’re told”, not comment on things. Omigod!

    Mindy, I don’t plan to replace the Fourth Estate model with “another one”: its acolytes need to acknowledge that there are now many journalisms, and that our students will decide which of these they will adopt and follow, how and when. My teaching might look untidy from a structuralist’s point of view, but that’s the modern world, yes?

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