Journalism scholars question News Corp’s deal with Google and Melbourne Business School


TO ANALYSE: Through Andrew Dodd, The University of Melbourne; Alexandra Wake, RMIT Universityand Matthew Ricketson, Deakin University

News Corp Australia and Google have announced the creation of the Digital News Academy in partnership with the Melbourne Business School at the University of Melbourne. It will provide digital skills training to News Corp reporters and other media outlets.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

The academy will not provide full degrees, just certificates and a chance to upgrade digital skills in a rapidly changing media environment.

Many companies in various industries have partnered with universities to offer what were previously in-house training programs. The strengthening of links between industry and academia has been welcomed in many sectors and certainly encouraged by governments for many years.

Why then, as journalism scholars, are we concerned?

There are several reasons. The first and most obvious is the foray of a highly publicized and controversial media company into the higher education sector and the extent to which it is funded by a large, disruptive digital research company.

Antagonism towards academia
It is telling that the Digital News Academy will be housed in the University of Melbourne’s private branch, the Melbourne Business School, rather than in its Center for the Advancement of Journalism within the Faculty of Letters.

Australia’s largest commercial media company has long been critical of university journalism education and journalism scholars, including each of the authors of this article and many of our colleagues.

The company itself once sent an incognito reporter to a Sydney University conference at discover News Corp critics in the classroom. This journalist, Sharri Markson, is now the editor of investigations at The Australian and a member of the “panel of experts” that will oversee the Digital News Academy.


Source: Digital News Academy

It’s no surprise, then, that News Corp has shunned journalism programs.

News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller said part of the academy’s role will be to build a stronger Australia by keeping society informed through “strong and fearless reporting and advocacy”.

Yet a partnership with a journalism program would have facilitated this. It also could have helped appease News Corp critics, some of whom have been active online over the week with reminders of News Corp’s unethical conduct during the hacking scandal and its disregard for scientific evidence. in his reporting on climate change.

University journalism courses teach ethics and critical thinking as well as practical skills such as new digital methods of fact-checking, news gathering and storytelling.

Google Australia already offers free tutorials to journalism programs on smart ways to use its search engine to find and verify investigative stories.

University journalism programs also distinguish between training and education; the first is mainly about skills, the second puts those skills into context and teaches students how to think critically about the industry and the environment in which they work.

By placing this course in a business school and not a liberal arts or humanities college, the company gets the kudos of support from the University of Melbourne without the tough academic culture that News Corp doesn’t like.

News Corp and Google are corporate clients, paying the university for these courses, so the independent review capacity of Australia’s most dominant news company is further eroded.

The Digital News Academy will be part of the Melbourne Business School, rather than the University of Melbourne's Center for Advancing Journalism.
The Digital News Academy will be housed within the Melbourne Business School, rather than the University of Melbourne Center for the Advancement of Journalism. Image: The Conversation/Shutterstock

What will the Digital News Academy do?
All we know so far about the academic credibility of the Digital News Academy comes from its promotional announcement, in press releases reported in the Media section of The Australian (published by News Corp).

The advertisement says the nine-month course will require 750 registrations from journalists from News Corp Australia, Australian Community Media (the stable of 160 regional publications previously owned by Fairfax) and smaller media partners.

A “governance committee†will select the candidates (who present themselves or are proposed by their employers). These students will be expected to use Google’s suite of tools when collaborating online at Melbourne Business School, to generate, create and sell stories to the course’s “Virtual Academy Newsroom”.

Each year there will be what is billed as a major journalism conference and study trip to the United States for a select group of interns.

There are no public details yet on the certificate program’s academic credentials, but the academy has relied on an “expert panel,” nearly all of whom come from News Corp and Google.

Google is gaining influence
It’s easy to see why Google was motivated to fund a News Corp training academy beyond what it is required to do as part of its attempt to prevent further interference in its operation by the Australian government in under the News Media Code of Negotiation.

But there are deeper questions about why a company with such a grip on the new digital economy is getting involved. By funding the academy, Google can undermine full college degrees specializing in journalism.

Relying on Google to make up the shortfall in news organizations‘ training budgets is problematic. This allows Google to shape the program while appearing as a champion of the same journalism industry it has been accused of undermining.

As journalism scholars, we respect the need for specialized training and skills development. But journalism programs should never be captured or coerced into criticizing the industry they are preparing students for.

They should continue to integrate ethics into their courses. The goal, after all, is to improve journalism, for the benefit of all.

As we often say, news is not just another matter. Although the study of journalism often involves the study of business, business imperatives should not lead to the study of journalism itself.The conversation

Doctor Andrew Dodd is director of the Center for Advancing Journalism, The University of Melbourne; Doctor Alexandra Wake is Program Manager, Journalism, at RMIT Universityand Dr. Matthew Ricketson is a professor of communication at Deakin University. This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

Dr. Dodd worked as a reporter for The Australian newspaper and provided in-house training in legal and news writing for News Corp. Dr Wake has provided in-house training for the ABC and Australian provincial newspapers. She is the President-Elect of the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA). Professor Ricketson has worked on the staff of The Australian, among other news outlets. He was a member of the Finkelstein inquiry into media and media regulation, which was heavily criticized in News Corp Australia publications. His appointment as the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance representative to the Press Council has also been criticized by News Corp Australia. Full disclosures at The Conversation.

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