Submissions to this year’s Select Committee on the Future of Public Interest Journalism pointed out that journalism tertiary education—students under the guidance of experienced and well-respected journalism practitioners—is in a position to help revive investigative and civic journalism. As Edith Cowan’s Kayt Davies (2014) pointed out as far back as 2014, public interest journalism practised in tertiary journalism programmes could potentially be funded through bodies such as the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the research grants system. Such revenue sources not only transcend the business model but also exist at a relatively acceptable arm’s length from the government.However, research—journalism or otherwise—is ineligible for ARC funding without academic research ethics committee approval. Unfortunately, the process of applying for approval from a committee, whose terms of reference are guided by an academy-approved, government-developed document (i.e., the National Statement), is so offensive to journalistic ideology that it renders the whole concept of public interest journalism in the university sector untenable. This essay examines the National Statement and draws similarities between its values and beliefs and professional journalism ideology (as articulated by the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), the Australian Press Council, the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma and the Hunter Institute for Mental Health). It then explores inbuilt flexibilities in the National Statement that offer journalism as a research methodology, a means of maintaining its independence. It then finishes with an updated survey of how journalism programmes around Australia negotiate the conflict between academic research ethics and professional ideology while engaging in practice-based research. In short, this essay explores options for the revival of public interest journalism that are acceptable to both academy and journalism sensibilities.
Asia Pacific Media Educator – SAGE
Published: Dec 1, 2017