The future of journalism education in a digital world was the topic of a fruitful symposium at the University of Sheffield in March, 2012. Practical and academic staff from universities across the UK attended the event to share journalism research project results and discuss degree programme structures. Ten guest speakers presented papers at the well-attended event, which was simultaneously discussed on Twitter using the hashtag #rdwsheff

Here is an outline of each of the papers:

Scott Elridge II, University of Sheffield (@selridge)
Professional identity in a digital era: exploring how journalism defends its identity in response to WikiLeaks


  • Journalists still see themselves in traditional roles
  • A perception exists that journalists exist within a professional framework
  • WikiLeaks relationship with definitions and understandings of journalism is contested
  •  WikiLeaks also claims to be activism and filling space left by journalism

Jonathan Hewett and Neil Thurman, City University
Facing both ways: how can journalism educators address the challenges of networked, disruptive technologies in the news media as well as in teaching and in learning?


Carried out survey of postgraduate students’ use of Twitter and found that City students found it useful for:

  • Learning from others in the profession
  • Learning about how to use Twitter
  • Learning about journalism
  • Extending professional contacts

Carried out exploratory case study at exploring liveblogging

  • Concluded that live blogging is meeting the needs of the ways people are consuming news
  • Most people view live blogs during the working day whilst in the workplace
  • Audiences prefer textual content to audio/visual content when viewing live blogs since this allows them to continue getting on with other things such as work
  • Live blogs at the Guardian online have more page views than articles and pictures on the same subject, and they are viewed for a longer period of time
  • Live blogs are updated on average every nine minutes, their duration is 360 minutes with an average of 40 updates
  • Subbing of live blogs is non-existent, but readers tend to point out mistakes and corrections are made within the live blogs
  • Journalists work with trusted sources and known Twitter accounts to verify information online rather than using generic search terms or hashtags
  • Live blogs use “cursory” verification and transparency of sources is important, with third parties signposted
  • The impact of live blogging includes: changes in practices, compressed deadlines, transparency of sources, giving readers and reporters a subbing role, corrections more explicit, forces a looser culture of corroboration

Dr An Nguyen, Bournemouth University
Integrating news audience knowledge into the professional toolkit: a new mission of journalism education


  • New Media is often seen as a threat to the traditional order rather than as an opportunity for new services, new publics and new markets
  • Journalists traditionally neglect audience needs therefore journalist educators must address this urgently
  • Journalists needs to have a mindset that encompasses a due respect for and full integration of audiences’ needs, demands and concerns in the news production and dissemination process
  • There needs to be a clear recognition that there is more than one news audience/public
  • Journalists needs to know: a) who audiences are b) what audiences expect and think about the news c) why audiences use the news d)how audiences integrate news into their everyday lives e) where journalists can position themselves in that daily life
  • Audiences should be seen as news consumers and as members of the public i.e citizens but not at the risk of treating audiences primarily as commodities through the guidance of online audience tracking

Lily Canter, Sheffield Hallam University (@lilycanter)
Research, teaching and practice: why educators, students and journalists need to hold [virtual] hands as they enter the interactive age


  • A more pragmatic engagement is needed between journalists and educators the results of which can inform and develop digital teaching in the classroom
  • An understanding of the cultural and economic context of the integration of digital technology into the newsroom is vital
  • Journalism educators and researchers must understand that there is great diversity in the industry and therefore students must be taught to be flexible, adaptable and have a diverse technological knowledge and skillset
  • Only by carrying out research can journalism educators have a greater understanding of what is happening in such a disparate industry
  • Research can inform journalists about emerging patterns, best practice and audience expectation
  • Journalism educators should be leading the industry rather than following it
  • The news industry is restricted by self-censorship, resources, legalities and attitudes
  • Regional newspaper websites need individual identity, editors need to be encouraged to innovate and lead, homogenised content doesn’t work
  • Journalists need to interact more with their audiences
  • If journalism educators teach students to be interactive, when they enter the workplace they will automatically drive audience interaction which needs to develop fast to meet audience demand and expectation

Professor Miguel de Aguilera, University of Malaga
The journalism and social communication education in Spain: a new focus


  • Journalism degrees in Spain have become very fashionable particularly due to the rise in celebrity journalism
  • Spanish universities are saturated with journalism students with more students than the labour market requires
  • Universities want to uphold traditional journalism functions of selection, evaluation, and control of content but they are having to change to the 2.0 model of participation, transparency and interaction
  • Journalism degrees need to be providing more than traditional journalism skills and should provide more transferable skills

Professor Sarah Niblock, Brunel University (@BrunelJourSarah)
Envisioning journalism practice as research

  • Practice as research is eligible for AHRC funding but it must meet certain academic criteria
  • In order to obtain funding journalism practice as research must:
    -define a series of research questions
    -specify a research context
    -specify the research methods
  • Theory first research can include practice based methodology and is driven by a question
  • Practice first research is driven by a problem to which practice is the movement towards a solution

William Carmichael, David Holmes and Marie Kinsey, University of Sheffield (@Bill_Carmichael @spikefodder @journotutor)
The digital crucible: reshaping the student newsroom


  • Not every journalism students needs every skill but they each need a little bit of the other disciplines
  • Sheffield University has introduced at postgraduate level an intensive week of multiskilling and guest lectures
  • Sheffield University degree programmes have an expanded core of journalism skills which include newsgathering, reporting, interviewing, law, ethics, public affairs, web research, using CMS, web audio/video, writing for the web, audiences
  • Surrounding the core skills are four specialist platforms of broadcast, print, magazines and web
  • The days of a settled curriculum are gone and there is a need for constant re-assimilation and redesign with built-in flexibility
  • Assessment is sometimes aimed more at familiarisation than mastery
  • Students can explore and experiment and teach their lecturers
  • But if journalism is to stand apart it must be distinctive and authoriative