Conference 2000: Industry
Industry Influences on Journalism Training:
Thoughts for the Future
A paper delivered by Ruth Thomas at
the Journalism Educators Association of New Zealand Conference, December,
2000 in Christchurch, New
Recently I read an article
comparing the way we teach students how to become journalists in New
Zealand as compared with Australia and England. It praises the New Zealand
model in comparison to what is happening in Australia and England for its
standardisation of skills-based teaching (Oakham & Tidy, 2000). Today
Iíd like to look a little more closely at the New Zealand model, how it
developed and to suggest some improvements.
But first letís look at
a comparison of the three models.
The Australian model:
There is no formal monitoring of course content in the Australian model,
nor the institutions which deliver the courses and there is no formal
qualifications or other prerequisites for entry into journalism in
Australia. In 1996, 845 students completed 18 journalism courses and
roughly only one in three got jobs (Oakham & Tidy, 2000).
Journalists Education Association in Australia last week I started to
understand the differences between journalism education in New Zealand and
Australia. Very few Australian courses teach shorthand because " the
students wonít go to it," I was told. Australian journalism programmes
vary from very good to very bad and there is a split between those who see
journalism as an academic discipline and those who believe it should
adhere to industry standards. At the conference, there was a discussion on
setting standards for "accredited schools" . At least two major newspaper
groups, News Ltd and Fairfax, have their own training schemes. They employ
interns, many of whom have graduated from a university journalism degree
course. During their one-year internships they receive one day a week
training whilst working on a newspaper. Their training includes shorthand
and lectures from prominent journalists.
The English model:
There are three main modes of training: First, traditional providers
providing traditional in-house professional training established under
standards set by the National Council for Training Journalists. Then there
are new providers combining educational and professional models of
training. These have standards set through a national vocational
qualifications, an endeavour to standardise training methods much like our
New Zealand Qualifications Authority ( NZQA). There are also commercial
providers, charging large fees and using a purely professional model. So
again there is no one overall model of training.
The New Zealand
model: In contrast, training in New Zealand is much more consistent.
Skills-based training is standardised through the New Zealand Journalists
Training Organisation. Journalism training, like many other skills-based
training schemes, has since the seventies being taught through
polytechnics apart from Canterbury University. Approximately 80 to 85% of
graduates throughout New Zealand gain jobs on graduation.
article praises the New Zealand model for its standardisation, close links
with industry and high employment rate for students.
The present New
Zealand situation has come about historically.
On the Job
The media, in particular newspapers, have traditionally
seen learning-on-the-job as the best way to learn the skills for their
industry. Up until the present day, many newspaper editors continue to
believe that training journalists is only about teaching the practical and
often technical skills and formulas that enable stories to be written
quickly and efficiently. Editors are often more concerned with getting the
product out at the end of the day, week or month, than they are with the
critical, ethical or analytical quality of their work. (Guerke,
While this quote comes from Australia, New Zealand is no
different. Until the late 1970s, most journalists were trained on-the-job.
However, the earliest journalism training course was
university-sponsored and the first university journalism graduate from
Canterbury University in 1915 pre-dated any Australian university
journalism graduate by about nine years. Despite that early start,
university training for journalists in New Zealand, unlike in Australia,
did not become widespread until the present day when the three main
journalism schools are all based in universities.
Formal training courses, strongly influenced by industry,
became established in polytechnics and dominated the training scene. The
seven New Zealand journalism training schools train their students to the
standards set for the industry-controlled national diploma in journalism.
Journalism educators are required to be professionally trained journalists
with at least five years industry experience. Industry members also remain
closely in contact with the journalism schools through providing work
experience, taking part in the selection of students and sitting on
However relations between journalism educators
and the media industry havenít always been straightforward. Historically,
the industry never saw the university as the place to train journalists.
One course in Auckland was no sooner started than it closed. The present
Canterbury university course in Christchurch has also had a chequered
history and was closed for 10 years, from 1954-1964. (Newth, 1997)notes
that times of crisis occurred frequently when journalism courses failed to
meet the needs of employers.
Industry Training Role
In 1971, the industry role in training became
formalised when the New Zealand Journalists Training Committee, the body
that was the forerunner to the most influential force in journalism
training was set up. Funded solely by newspaper employers, it comprised
members of the Commonwealth Press Union. By 1973 it had reconstituted
itself as the Journalists Training Board, reflecting a
government-initiative to lift the standards of apprenticeship and in-house
training through the establishment of vocational training boards. In 1993,
again following a trend favoured by the current Government, it gained
additional status and became an industry training organisation, the New
Zealand Journalists Training Organisation.
At about the same time as the first training
committee was established, journalism training through polytechnics
started and the close relationship with industry was cemented. The first
course was established in 1969 at the Wellington polytechnic and was
followed in 1975 by an Auckland course which immediately gained favour
because it was headed by well-known journalist, Geoff Black, who " talked
the same language as newspaper editors" - he shared their standards and
views. The Auckland course, what was taught and how it was taught, was to
be seen as the way to train journalists for many years. When I joined the
then AIT five years ago, I was given Geoff Blackís class guides and notes
to use to help me. In contrast, as the Auckland course gained favour, the
Wellington course fell from grace for a time with the industry threatening
to boycott employing its graduates and close it, unless it was
The influence of the media industry continued to
strengthen when, in the late 1980s, the Government decided to reduce its
vocational training funding, placing the onus of providing money back on
to employers. A two-day industry conference was held where media industry
representatives re-iterated they were dissatisfied with the uneven
abilities of young people who had been trained and were entering the
industry. The conference agreed that employers would provide funding but
the New Zealand Journalists Training Board should set the standards and
control training. This led to the drawing up of a document which listed
the minimum performance and standards required of a new entrant into
journalism who had completed a formal, basic course. These criteria and
skills were performance-based and capable of being tested. They formed the
basis for what are known today as journalism unit standards and are at the
heart or core of all journalism training in New
Since 1989, New Zealand, like
other western countries, has seen widespread reform in the education
system as well as in its health and welfare systems. In order to remedy
perceived shortcomings such as inefficiency and lack of accountability in
tertiary education, corporate reforms were introduced, characterised by
greater self-management in educational institutions, increased
competition, user charges and corporate planning. The NZQA was established
to develop a new qualifications framework and to ensure these
qualifications were delivered. The qualifications on the framework became
known as unit standards. NZQA, as part of its second purpose, was able to
give institutions other than existing universities the power to grant
At the centre of these reforms
was the law establishing a direct link between funding and equivalent
full-time students. The financial success of a tertiary institution was
aimed at attracting students in a competitive market place. When it was
realised that students required a degree rather than a basic certificate,
polytechnics moved to introduce degrees and lobbied to gain
university-status and thus attract more students. The result was a huge
increase in under-graduate numbers as popular courses such as journalism
became part of university degrees.
Today the main three journalism
courses, Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury are university-based.
Wellington became a university through a merger with Massey University.
One of the largest tertiary institutes in New Zealand, the Auckland
Institute of Technology, gained university status in 2000 just before the
new Labour Government halted the creation of any new
Industry Links Strong
the media industry was suspicious of journalists with a degree. In
general, degree courses saw themselves as elite and academic, not as the
kind of practical industry-driven courses that it was considered
polytechnics had provided. But gradually the suspicion started to erode.
And with the journalism unit standards remaining at the core of both
degree and non-degree courses, the media industry realised it remained in
control of standards and skills.
As journalism educators, our
connections with the media industry are very strong. The establishment of
this body, JEANZ came about through a JTO initiative. We could all
describe our own links with the media industry in detail. When you look
round the room you realise we all have worked in the media industry for at
least five years, many of us for much longer. Not only do we teach the
unit standards, but industry representatives assist closely with our
courses, sit on our advisory panels, help with our selection processes,
take our students on work attachment and internships and are an invaluable
part of journalism education. Iím no exception - I worked in industry for
20 years and have had far greater experience on the other side of the
fence, that is taking students on work attachment, internship, helping on
selections, etc., than the few years Iíve spent in education.
teaching methods are also strongly influenced by the media industry.
Assessment is focused on the products of student writing and journalism is
taught using an industry method, known as one-to-one subbing where the
final product is corrected by an individual tutor. Work attachment, where
students are attached to a newspaper, is an integral part of most of our
courses as are internships where students work in a newspaper office or
elsewhere in the media industry for several weeks.
Today my aim is not
debunk the standards we have achieved and the programmes that have
developed over the years training journalists to a high standard, but to
look at the challenges ahead and how to progress into the
The Attributes of a Journalist
Weíve already done
some thinking and talking about this body and its aims and aspirationsÖso
itís fitting to do some thinking and talking about what a journalist is. A
few years ago at this conference, I asked conference attendees to list the
attributes they saw as important for a journalist in order to help out
with questions in our graduate diploma selection. I also later asked some
media employers what they thought. There was general consensus - the main
ones were that journalists should have independence, persistence,
flexibility, able to use their initiative and could work in a team. There
was also another attribute which didnít feature but is seen as important
by others- being a critical thinker. John King in Principles,
Professionalism and Philosophy describes this as "questioning". He
suggests most journalists would like to see themselves as having a
questioning attitude but their actions donít fully back this up(King,
1997). Australian academic Lynnette Sheridan Burns says much the same
thing. Journalism graduates need self-reliance, self-reflection and
critical thinking skills to be able to skilfully negotiate the complex,
social, economic and commercial context in which journalism is practised
today, she says.(Sheridan Burns, 1997)
Encouraging These Attributes
During the course of the last
few years, Iíve thought a lot about how we train our journalists Ė both as
part of doing my masters degree, and through my own experiences in
teaching. What has slowly dawned on me if we are not totally satisfied
with the media industry as it is today - and I suggest we arenít - and if
we want to produce the right attributes in a journalist, perhaps we should
be looking at our teaching methods. There are also the pressures of
educational reform and the need to use our resources carefully that
contribute to my belief that we should look at our methods. Perhaps, I
thought, our traditional ways of training for industry arenít the only way
to do it.
Lectures , tutorials combined with one-to-one subbing are
our main ways of teaching news writing. Sheridan Burns sees lectures and
tutorials as part of the didactic model of learning(Sheridan Burns, 1997).
In the didactic model, information provided by lecturers is absorbed by
students and is illustrated through the completion of professional tasks.
Evaluation is limited to a teacherís assessment of the final product. The
didactic method is part of the traditional view of seeing the student as a
passive receiver of the body of knowledge that the teacher chooses to feed
him. Teachers ( the subjects) narrate to the students, patient, listening
objects, who are like containers, receptacles waiting to be filled
(Freire, 1972). This concept known as "banking education" emphasises the
divisions in society, the dominant and the subordinate, the subject and
the object which Freire sees as reproducing power relations. Sheridan
Burns argues for the introduction of problem-based learning into
journalism which values the process over the product and learning over
teaching so that learning becomes active, reflective and
In the same informal survey
referred to earlier (Thomas, 1999) we all said that we used some form of
one-to-one tuition, vetting or subbing to teach news writing as well as
lectures and tutorials. The advantages of subbing were seen as the ability
to provide students with individual attention. However all but one of us
saw disadvantages, mainly the time the method took and its lack of
practicality in todayís educational climate.
Our method of subbing or
vetting also fits the didactic mould, where the tutorsí views are supreme.
The student writes the story. The student takes the story to their tutor.
The tutor subs their story and provides guidance. The student corrects the
story, following the tutorís corrections and recommendations until the
tutor is satisfied it is suitable for publication.
After watching our
own students and thinking about what we do, it seems to me that reliance
on the use of the traditional subbing method can create a dependent
relationship between the tutor and student. That is, studentsí control
over their own writing and level of independence may suffer in the
process. It can encourage dependence by allowing the student to rely on
the tutor to correct copy before any self-revision has been attempted.
Itís not uncommon to overhear students saying theyíll take their stories
to a tutor and he/she "will fix them up". Sometimes stories, which are
really just drafts, full of spelling errors and basic mistakes are
presented, again with the reasoning that itís the tutorís job to tidy up
The practice of attachment to newspapers, known as situated
learning, can also cause problems. Situated learning became popular in the
1970s as a way of linking the economy and higher education and providing
relevant and useful education(Dunlap, 1994) While it too has many
benefits, it also has disadvantages and can cause conflicts between
learning and values for students and also problems when the views of a
tutor and an editor are different.
The subbing method, by its very
nature, also requires a large amount of teacher time which is contrary to
modern trends. The polytechnic format of instruction with students in a
classroom all day has now largely been replaced in some New Zealand
journalism training schools by university-style lectures and tutorials and
a change to the semester system. The result has been teaching time has
been compressed and also a wider range of speciality subjects has been
introduced appropriate to a university education. In addition, in the new
environment, there are greater pressures on staff who have less time
available for students as they are expected to do more research and
upgrade their own academic qualifications. In my own study at an institute
I will call Sunshine University (SU) for anonymity, I found the formal
time allocated to news writing had not increased in 10 years. Rather it
had dropped by about a third.(Thomas, 1999) I donít believe this is
unusual or atypical not only for news writing but many other tertiary
subjects as well.
Letís Look at the Future
If we are to
develop the right attributes in the journalists of the future who are able
to cope and deal with the challenges that surround them in the very
complex world of today, it is time to start looking at different methods
of teaching, and new ways of doing things. I donít think there is
necessarily the one right way, but I do think we could look at using what
we already have and building from there.
There has been considerable
research into how people learn and different teaching methods have
emerged. Today there is a very large emphasis on self-direction, there is
also problem based learning, and the process or workshop method. So thatís
where my own study comes in.
What my study, done as part of my Masters
in Education, set out to look at was whether students at Sunshine
University could gain the skills required by our industry standards Ė that
is being able to gather news, interview, write accurately, and write
clear, concise news stories suitable for publication in a newspaper, using
the workshop method - that is using self-direction and working together,
As well I wanted to see whether they could gain the
additional attributes of a journalist, persistence, independence,
determination and critical thinking. And I wanted to do a cost benefit
analysis. Could it be done in less time than using present methods?
learnt a lot along the way. Writing itself is a highly complex and
difficult set of processes which involves considerable cognitive pressure.
The complexities of learning increases with the constraints and
requirements of a news story. Gathering and selecting the news, isolating
the message of the story, deciding on vocabulary and style, re-reading and
revising are all additional complex processes ( Pitts, 1989). The
production of news, because of its tight deadlines, is also constrained by
professional routines and values, types of sources and the nature of
inputting texts and is highly structured into the rules-based inverted
pyramid (van Dijk, 1986). Over the last 20 years there has been
substantial research into the process of learning writing, in particular
composition writing but little research linking the process model and how
news stories are written.
The study grew from the influence of the
Flower and Hayes writing model (Flower & Hayes, 1980) and my
experience of using the process model of learning and workshops to
introduce news writing to the second year of the degree programme where
last year there were 175 under-graduate students.
In the study, 13
students learnt journalism using the workshop approach, while another 13
students remained with a subbing tutor. All students attended the same
lectures and tutorials to meet the requirements of the news reporting
The main difference in the
workshop or process method is that instead of working on the final
product, the news story, the concentration is on the process of getting
Flower and Hayesí research produced an understanding of the
process of learning to write. From the understanding of this process, the
process or workshop model of teaching developed. In a process model
classroom, students discuss and analyse tasks, benefiting from peer and
teacher insight as well as developing their own cognitive strategies for
organising material and examining their work objectively. These cognitive
strategies include collaborative and reciprocal learning to guide students
towards self-reflection, self-evaluation and revision strategies.
Self-reflection is linked to metacognition - "thinking about thinking".
Growing evidence suggests the ability to "manage" oneís own thinking is
crucial to effective learning and intellectual growth ( Bereiter &
Self-reflection and self-evaluation are part of
self-regulated learning, popularly described as self-directed learning.
Self-regulation is personally controlling the way a task is done ( Garcia,
1995). To be a self-regulated learner, a person will learn to observe how
they learn, monitor their own activities, and react in ways that maximise
learning. Self -regulation also encompasses self-efficacy. Self-efficacy
shouldnít be confused with self-esteem though it is similar. Self-esteem
is a general feeling about your own worth. You can display high
self-efficacy about your ability in writing but be low in self-efficacy
when it comes to maths. Self-efficacy refers to peopleís beliefs about
whether they are capable of exercising control over themselves and events
that affect their lives ( Bandura, 1991), and is very important in the
kind of goals people set and what happens when they donít achieve them. A
person with high self-efficacy will consider they might need to work
harder, a person with low self-efficacy will put it down to being not
intelligent enough, or having little ability.
components in the workshop method are:
Teacher as coach
Peer Editing and Self-Evaluation
Teacher as Coach: The teacher as coach is
central to the collaborative classroom. The teacher is not the guru, the
authority-figure and the fount of all knowledge but just another member of
the group. The aim is not the familiar pattern of the teacher/tutor
observing performance, considering the final product, pointing out the
errors and rewarding correct responses. The tutor is available to help
with individual problems but does not dominate the workshop but works to
encourage student voice, self-management and self-evaluation. Students
learn by doing and through dialogue.
News Teams: Students
are divided into news teams consisting of about three students, reflecting
the social nature of the media industry and encouraging them to develop
team work and team spirit. News teams also provide mutual support and a
basis for organising peer editing and discussion about
Cognitive Strategies: Peer editing and
discussion about self-evaluation are two strategies that are useful in
assisting students to think about what they are doing and to become
self-regulated learners. There are other individual strategies that can be
helpful. One strategy useful for students who consider they are poor at
grammar or punctuation is to encourage self-efficacy. Instead of their
continuing to believe they have no ability and " canít write, spell or
punctuate correctly", they can adopt a technique where they reward
themselves when they find mistakes and keep a tally of how they are
improving. They can also use an appropriate peer to check out
Peer Editing and Self-Evaluation: These are
important elements of the workshop method. Students first need to identify
the strengths and weaknesses of their own writing, and follow this by
discussion on constructive criticism. To assist constructive criticism,
they are given checklists and guidelines for writing more complicated
stories. They are encouraged to work through their own stories first by
themselves using their checklists, instead of coming to their tutor, and
they then should ask a news team member to evaluate their story.
editing requires careful handling. The disadvantages are the over-critical
student, students want tutor approval rather than peer approval and the
lack of knowledge in the early stages. But it also has strong advantages:
it provides an audience, and immediate feedback and is also important in
the transfer of knowledge, that is if you can see a problem in someone
elseís writing you will learn to avoid it yourself. It also means the
students using both self-evaluation and peer editing techniques are taking
important first steps to become self-regulated learners.
Writing Prompts: Checklists and guidelines to writing more complicated
stories act as news writing schemata which provide a set of prompts so
that students have a structure to use to develop self-evaluation and peer
editing skills. The checklist takes students through questions from
"Whatís the story?" to "Did I read the story out loud to a friend?" It
also asks the students to check their own writing for any weakness they
may have identified. The guidelines to writing more complicated stories
cover story ideas, thinking about the reader and testing for trouble spots
which occur when there are mismatches between what the writer is trying to
express and what the reader understands. For example, if the writer is
reading the story out loud and the person hearing it says " I donít
understand that word", or "Can you say it again?" it indicates a trouble
Modelling: Modelling also assists students,
particularly in the early stages, to understand what a news story should
look like. Students volunteer to have their stories placed on an overhead
transparency and projected on to a whiteboard. As a group, they work
through the changes necessary to improve the story. From this, they
understand revision is not an immediate process and also learn to discuss
- use dialogue- the writing process.
Activities: Most of the activities already described are intended to
encourage thinking about thinking or metacognition. When using a cognitive
strategy like a checklist, the student must think about what they are
doing and why they are doing it. The aim is the next time they write a
news story they will think about the steps they needed to take previously;
" Last time I needed to keep my intro short and punchy. This time I must
check it is short and work on bringing the reader into the story."
Students are also encouraged to record their thoughts in writing
notebooks, reinforcing metacognitive thinking. In the early stages, free
writing can be encouraged. "Write for five minutes in your notebooks
without stopping to think about your first news story" is one useful
topic. Writing notebooks are also a way of monitoring student progress.
While they provide useful information, students should be encouraged to
see them as their own.
The study found the
workshop students gained the skills expected of them in about one third of
the time usually taken using one-to-one subbing.
They also gained
additional benefits, they were independent, persistent, showed initiative
and gained the ability to self-evaluate their own work and were critical
Now to sum up. Today weíve listened to David talking about
Masseyís newspaper project. Thatís an example of self-directed learning,
using an important idea, giving students practical experience without
totally following the usual pattern of newspapers Ė run by the editor who
has full control.
This reinforces one of the points Iíve been making.
We need to use the good things we have in our skills-based journalism
training but look at progressing our methods. I donít believe you can
train journalists for industry without huge input from industry Ė thatís
not what Iím saying. But nor do we want to train journalists who are
clones of the past. We should be thinking of improving the journalists of
tomorrow through a partnership Ė using the strengths that we have already
gained from our media industry but adding to this - moving towards making
journalists and journalism better. Education can never be taken too
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Ruth Thomas has
been the Programme Leader of the Graduate
Diploma in Journalism at
Auckland University of Technology for the last
five years.She has
recently completed a Master of Education ( Adult and
Previously she was Managing Editor of Community
and Capital Community