Luckhurst Hits Back at Attack on Journalism Academics

A former editor of The Scotsman has dismissed an attack – by ex Sun editor, Kelvin MacKenzie – on journalism academics as “old fashioned” and “out of touch”, and even offered him some training.

In an article in The Independent newspaper, MacKenzie condemned journalism degrees as “make-work projects for retired journalists”, adding that aspiring journalists would do much better to join their local newspaper straight after A-levels.

He said: “There are more than 80 schools in the UK teaching journalism. These courses are make-work projects for retired journalists who teach for six months a year and are on a salary of £34,000-£60,000. Students are piling up debts as they pay to keep their tutors in the lifestyles they're used to. I'd shut down all the journalism colleges today. If you want to be a print journalist you should go straight from school and join the local press.“

Now,  Professor Tim Luckhurst, also a former editor of news programmes at BBC Scotland – in a joint letter to The Independent with Ian Reeves, former editor of UK Press Gazette – has hit back.

The duo, who both lecture at the Centre of Journalism at the University of Kent, say: “Kelvin MacKenzie is right about one thing. A degree in media studies is not a preparation for a career in journalism and no student should be misled into imagining it is. Beyond that, his argument is utterly misguided, deplorably out of touch with modern journalism and atypically devoid of common sense.” 

“There are in British universities a handful of excellent degrees in convergent multimedia journalism that combine high academic standards in traditional disciplines including history, politics and law, with superb teaching of print, broadcast and online skills. They can be identified via two key characteristics: exceptionally high admissions standards, usually including interview and written test, and professional accreditation by the National Council for the Training of Journalists.

“In the Centre for Journalism here at Kent, rigorously selected students from a diverse range of backgrounds learn to work to a professional standard. They do mandatory work experience at the KM (Kent Messenger) Group. They get published in print and online and they make broadcast-quality radio and television. Some of them have had work published in The Independent.

“The world has changed a lot since print skills alone made a good journalist. Today's reporters need computer and broadcast skills Kelvin has never acquired. Perhaps he would like to learn. We'd be pleased to help.”