INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST, Nick Davies has criticised the standard of journalism training in the UK – claiming some lecturers “haven’t the faintest idea of how to do the job”.
The Guardian reporter, whose Flat Earth News book caused a stir in the industry when it was published last year, dismissed suggestions made recently by Eastern Daily Press deputy editor Paul Durrant that vocational training was more important than a degree for aspiring journalists. Durrant made the remarks to the National Council for the Training of Journalists’ student council.
Speaking to CU Today at this weekend’s investigative journalism masterclass at City University in London, which he co-hosted with fellow Guardian journalist David Leigh, Davies said a degree would help young people entering journalism “to understand the world, which is part of being a journalist”.
Davies, however, did agree with Durrant when it came to key journalistic qualities such as short-hand, media law and writing techniques, and criticised many universities and their lecturers for “not having the faintest idea of how to do the job”.He said: “They (students) need somebody to teach them shorthand, typing, media law, research technique and writing skills. They might get those skills by hands-on experience, as in the traditional indenture system, or they might get them from college courses.
“But there is a danger with the courses: there are now hundreds of them which claim to teach these skills, but a great many of them are genuine crap, taught by people who haven’t the faintest idea of how to do the job.”
The Guardian newspaper reporter also claimed that investigative journalism had a very important role in the media, even though demand for “serious truth-telling journalism has shrunk”.
He added that the consuming public wanted to know more about the world and all therein which placed a greater reliance on this particular area of journalism.
Davies said: “For this very reason, investigative work could conceivably have a better chance of surviving than some other kinds of reporting, because there is a genuine demand for it.
“The big corporations who currently own so many news media don’t give a damn about journalism, but they care about markets. But if somebody somewhere has the brains to see that there are still some people who want real journalism, the investigative stuff could survive,” he added.
As well as being critical of multi-national media corporations, Davies was also scathing of media laws that currently operate in the UK, particularly libel law, calling it “the greatest single legal block to investigative journalism”.
“This is an invasion for two groups of unscrupulous people to suppress good journalism – rich people who can afford libel lawyers, and libel lawyers whose primary skill in life is inflating their bills.
“The really destructive thing is that, if the rich people can get away with it, it’s the newspapers who end up stuffing the money into the lawyer’s hands.”
- Read this article on the Press Gazette’s website.