Wednesday, May 09, 2007

See no evil, hear no evil and say no evil

See no evil, hear no evil and say no evil
May 9th, 2007

That was the first thing that came to my mind as my colleague Mark Dolan at the Department of Journalism (University of Mississippi) commented on the major disconnect which exists between the most journalism faculty’s published research and what goes on in real life newsrooms and television stations.

We were debating how many times we ever heard an editor or publisher refer to an article in Journalism Quarterly or Journalism Monographs (two major publications in journalism education that help faculty get tenured if they publish in them) when they meet with you or talk to you about the business.

It never happens.

The opposite is true with almost any other profession. Doctors refer to the New England Journal of Medicine every time they talk about their research, so do scientists when they refer to Nature magazine. And then come the journalists. We try to debate and analyze the most obscure things that bring our industry no benefit.

I still remember that day in 1985 when I presented my first research on the survival rate of magazines and the looks I received from my academic colleagues. They thought I am the anti Christ. Writing about things that are not historical in nature, which do not analyze the nature of content of the coverage of some war in some magazine, or some women’s issues in some non-women’s magazines—the list goes on and on. From my early career days, I promised myself to make all my research relevant to the industry I love and teach about. From that summer of ‘85, I started directing all my work to the industry rather than my colleagues. All my books, all my articles, my web site and now my blog aim to answer ‘what is in it for me, the reader, the publisher, the editor and the art director’. The industry needs academia to be on the forefront of the future—to be learning from our past, not living in it.

When I read some of my colleagues’ writings and discoveries for things that have been taking place for years, I can’t help but to wonder why our industry leaders do not use our research in their works and daily discussions. We can’t continue this disconnect with the industry. Yes, we are academia, but we should be in the service of our students first and the industry second. It can be done without having to sacrifice one on the alter of the other.

Our magazines, newspapers, the entire media field is screaming for help. Do not bury your heads in the sand and pretend that it does not matter to you. You and your relevant research are needed now more than ever.

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