Just hosted AMPA 2 and thanks to the academics who gathered to discuss practice PhDs, the value and worth of news and production days as well as how universities deal with running media practice courses.
Plenty of discussion and a lovely spirit of camaraderie across the day.
We came up with lots of suggestions for the way ahead. They’ll be shared on this page and elsewhere.
Tim Crook interviewed Dr. Tony Dowmunt who is a Senior Lecturer and convenor of the Screen Documentary in the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths about his pioneering of the practice PhD at this university.
He was the first practice academic in the department to complete an AVPhD- which was a balance of a professional practice film or media artefact and theoretical academic thesis.
Tim and Tony discuss the discrimination against practice academics in UK higher education and how the practice PhD may be a method of redressing the balance.
Tony believes that the discrimination has been appalling and wonders whether the only way of successfully stopping it would be for practice lectures to refuse to do any more teaching in order to receive the concessions they deserve.
Tim also talks to Tony about his AVPhD project.
It was a personal exploration of his identity and past through video diary format.
A summary to his thesis is provided below:
A Whited Sepulchre: Autobiography and video diaries in ‘post-documentary’ culture
‘This is a PhD project partly about my class and ethnic background and consciousness: how I have lived them as a white man and a documentary filmmaker, and how they are connected to the ghost of my great-grandfather, who was a soldier in the British Army in Sierra Leone in the 1880s.
But it is also a project about autobiographical documentary filmmaking, and is submitted for examination in two main components: the first a video-diary based film (A Whited Sepulchre) in which I investigated the form/genre of the video diary by making one myself – filmmaking as a research method; the second, a text which has an independent relationship to the film – not one of ‘illustration, description or explication’ but hopefully of ‘expansive enrichment’ (Trinh T. Minh-Ha quoted in McLaughlin & Pearce (eds) 2007: 107).
A Whited Sepulchre is a video which draws on the stories of two journeys: my great-grandfather’s account of his posting to Sierra Leone, and my own ‘video diary’ of a trip that I made in December/January 2004-5, following in his footsteps but seeking a different understanding of Africa and of myself as a white ‘Englishman’.’
Professor Tim Crook.
At the AMPA event on July 27th I’m hoping to start a debate on what we as journalism and production teachers do to register just what is going on when we run news days or weeks or programme simulations. Whatever we call them they are a vital teaching and learning tool for us and our students.
We all know that so why do we need to talk about them? Well, like so much of what we do as practitioners the focus is on the moment – finding stories, writing them, clipping interviewees and getting the item on air – and it appears we have little time to reflect. In fact, as well know again, we and our students do reflect but often we do it alongside the next activity or outside class times.
To borrow a phrase from our less-practice inclined colleagues we need to ‘capture the activity and its outcomes’. Students really value these experiences as being as close as they can get to being in a real working newsroom while still in the relative safety of the classroom. But just what does that mean if we (apologies for this) ‘unpack it’?
What are we teaching them in terms of working under pressure, operating within groups, managing difficult colleagues, dealing with their own anxieties and confidence issues? All of those are features of a news day and come on top of the news and production skills they are learning and polishing, ensuring accuracy and balance, dealing with any ethical issues that arise and ensuring they deliver.
Over the years we’ve become so practised at all this stuff that we barely know we’re doing it and it certainly goes unnoticed by academic colleagues. What I would like us to do as a group is take a bit of time to talk about why these ‘real’ experiences are important and to learn from one another about what – if anything – we do to recognise the true depth of the intellectual activities involved. In short it’s time to stop hiding our light.
While we’re at it (or at least while I’m on my soapbox) there is another area linked to this which again goes unmarked. Which of us hasn’t dealt with questions from former students about stories they are working on wherever they’re employed? It may be a simple request for a contact or it could be asking for advice on a legal problem or an ethical issue. Whatever, we respond as well as responding to queries on career moves or more personal topics. It’s all in a day’s work but if we don’t value that we can’t complain if nobody else does.
So here we are again in the run up to another AMPA conference. Maybe, then, this is a good time to reflect on just what being a Practice Academic means to me (This isn’t some magazine style, soul baring piece it’s just that I don’t want to be seen to be speaking on behalf of AMPA or any of its members).
First, let’s come clean. For a long time I stood on that well-worn high ground where I thought research into (in my case) journalism was done by academics who had never been journalists and didn’t understand journalism. The rest of us – the practitioners -‘just got on and did it’ and taught a new generation of journalists to do the same.
That is, of course, an unreasonable view of fellow academics but more importantly it sells practitioners short. As my colleague Professor Diane Kemp outlined at last year’s conference much of what we do and teach has real intellectual depth and value. Our problem is that those of us who come from or work in production or journalism make some of these deep and important decisions and apply areas of theoretical thinking in the very short spaces of time permitted by deadlines. As a result the intellectual activity is lost in the blur of getting on with it.
So we need to be engaged in research but we need to think first about how we want that to happen. What we do not need is practitioners simply moving into traditional areas of research. Here, I think, I have to disagree fundamentally with the Association of Journalism Educators whose forthcoming conference includes a session on making the step from practitioner to researcher. There shouldn’t be a step.
As practitioners our research should be rooted in what we do. Yes, of course, we have to demonstrate the necessary academic rigour and intellectual engagement but our practice needs to be our research and our research should be equally a part of our practice.
There will be no ‘one size fits all’ model for what we do. There are already some excellent examples of this happening (I hesitate to say in practice). Our first conference heard from my BCU colleagues Vanessa Jackson and Sam Coley about their own PhD studies through practice. This time the excellent Professor Tim Crook will talk about the AVPhD and his role as a joint supervisor. For my part I’m embarking on the University of Lincoln’s PhD by Practice which will be based on my work as editor of two magazines and as the publisher and founder/part owner of one of them. They represent the required ‘substantial body of work’ on which I will reflect, adding to the thinking on areas such as the local versus global debate, imagined communities and journalism ethics. (Wish me luck).
There are many ways to ensure that what we do is recognised and valued. We just need to use the same levels of creative thinking that we bring to our journalism and production work to developing and encouraging them. That is what I think AMPA is about and why it is important.
Association of Media Practice Academics’ conference #2
Please join us on Monday 27th July at 10.45 for 11 start.
Introduction and agenda setting.
Professor Diane Kemp (Birmingham City University)
Practice PhDs – the story continues.
Tim Crook (Goldsmiths, University of London), Kate Ironside (University of Bedfordshire), Sam Coley (Birmingham City University)
Weighing up the academic worth of media production/newsdays – a plan of action.
Bob Calver (Birmingham City University)
How committed are HEIs to media practice?
Richard Horsman (Leeds Trinity University)
Moving ahead: small group discussions to plan for AMPA in the coming year.
This event will take place at Birmingham City University’s Parkside Building.
I think we identified a number of distinct activities reflecting our various interests/concerns.
Do people want to take them on and lead?
I’m keen to follow whoever takes the lead on practice based PhDs….any takers?
I’d like to look at us sharing the practice based work we still engage in. If you remember we talked about the need to value that, by making it high profile, celebrating it. I guess we need a website for this. Any thoughts?
Bob and I were talking about doing a mail out to all to ask them about the learning which goes on in practice newsdays. It’d be great to capture all the different elements people feel is being transmitted, understood, etc.
Any takers for this??
We do need to send something out to our new colleagues via Mail Chimp too.
Again, if you want to lead with this, just let us all know.
I’ve sent an email today to the co-founders of AMPA to agree wording before sending off to the long list of names supplied by John (thanks for that). Hopefully this will get the ball rolling and give us more members.
Be great to publish and share some of our interesting practical work.
Interestingly a few of us have been sent a reminder of the MeCCSA practice group. Has everyone had this?
Anyway, let’s see what happens next.
Happy teaching everyone.
If you haven’t looked at his comment below, please do.
Now that we’re back from various summer holidays/commitments it’d be great to get stuck into AMPA again and bring more people on board.
Anyone have suggestions for this?
Thanks John for your mailing list. Will put together an email and check we’re all happy with it before pressing send.
Welcome too, to Craig Hooper from the University of South Wales and Karl Hodge from Leeds Metropolitan.