The already over-crowded world of blogging has yet another entrant: Professor Adrian Monck, the head of journalism at City University. He started it on 25 October but I only came across it accidentally a few days ago. I was so angry that I dashed off an email to three of my colleagues at City berating them for not keeping me in touch with what was happening in the department. They have now all replied telling me I was quite wrong in assuming that they knew what their boss was doing. My email was the first they had heard of Adrian Monck Online.
When I emailed my colleagues in early September telling them about my own blog Monck tore me off a strip. He told me that I no longer had any role at the university though I was welcome to visit as a ‘friend’. He told me that my blog was my own ‘personal playground’ and I must make it plain that my blog had nothing to do with City University. I told him that I did not agree that I had no role because, although I not currently being paid, I remain an Emeritus Fellow. However, I agreed that I would do what he said, so I inserted the disclaimer under ‘What this blog is about’. I also changed the name to www.xcitybob.com, making it plain to everyone in the journalism training business that Bob Jones is now EX-City University,
Now he has started his own ‘personal playground’. Nowhere on the front page does he say that he is full time head of City University’s Department of Journalism. Mostly he has blogged about things that he knows about in the world of television journalism. But at 10.44 last night he posted on ‘Educating journalists’ with a link to an article Peter Preston wrote in Sunday’s Observer on the National Council for Training in Journalism. This is actually something I know about myself since when I was running journalism at City the NCTJ ruled the roost.
The NCTJ was a pioneer in journalism training in the 1950s and fostered 20 week training courses at technical colleges around the country, notably at Harlow. When the first university journalism course was set up by Tom Hopkinson at Cardiff University in 1970 it was accredited by the NCTJ and the students were taught its curriculum with an extra course in History of Journalism. City followed this pattern in 1976 with a curriculum which was the NCTJ course with History and Structure of the Press, taught by Professor Jeremy Tunstall, who was Professor of Sociology at City University. The first Director of City Journalism was Tom Welsh, who had been a teacher on the Harlow journalism course.
Tom left in December 1978 to edit the Barrow Evening Mail. By the time I arrived in April 1979 there were several problems, mostly to do with the NCTJ. The students wanted to debate values in journalism, as well as do the basics which had been originally designed for school leavers. They also wanted to do television and radio and were irked by the NCTJ insistence that they had to learn regional journalism and take jobs in the regions.
That was why I started the radio and international journalism courses in 1982. This was all very sensible but I made one serious mistake. I spent so much time talking to people in journalism (including the NCTJ) that I neglected to keep my three full-time colleagues fully informed about what I was doing and carry them along with me. This became a real problem when one of them left and the university decided to set up a working party on the future of journalism, which some of my colleagues (and the NCTJ) saw as a committee of inquiry into my own behaviour.
In the event it led to the university creating the first chair in British journalism teaching. The first incumbent was John Dodge, who was a former Director of the NCTJ. He realised very soon after he arrived at City that his old friends at the NCTJ had lost touch with the realities of journalism training. And he started the moves which took City and Cardiff out of strangling grasp of the NCTJ. John Dodge died after only two years in the driving seat and the process of freeing City from the NCTJ was completed during the ten year headship of Hugh Stephenson (now an emeritus professor).
That’s the ancient history. Now for the present.
The essence of Peter Preston’s story is:
‘The National Council for the Training of Journalists is the industry benchmark trainer, with 38 accredited courses around Britain. But, gradually, most of the top universities are pulling out. First, the City in London; now, prospectively, Cardiff and Preston as well. What’s wrong?
It’s basically a question of exemptions, from the public admin and legal bits of the courses. Why should long-suffering students be required to sit exams twice over, with a pile of shorthand thrown in? And why should the finest academic essayists have to play tick boxes and short, sharp answers to start on a local weekly at £13,000 a year? If Cardiff, say, were to go it alone, would any of their students really suffer? City’s haven’t.’
I agree with this. But what Peter Preston does not know is the current reality at City, where Adrian Monck is making exactly the same mistake as I made over twenty years ago. Steaming ahead and doing his own thing. Not listening to his full-time colleagues who have infinitely more experience than he does of journalism training. He has forgotten that he is the leader of a team. If wants to run a blog it should be City Journalism Online and it should refect the talents and views of all the teachers in the department, not just one man.
Monck probably won’t thank me for writing this. But he has taught me one lesson via the quote he uses on Adrian Monck Online.
It is from Cyril Connolly:
‘Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.’