I am Foundation Professor of Journalism here at Monash University.
My colleagues and I have been building what we think is a truly innovative program at Monash Journalism. In our thinking and through our teaching and research we are addressing the issues that confront journalism as the institutions and technologies that have sustained it for decades melt away or are radically transformed. The hallmark of our approach is the mutual interrogation of theory and practice, which is why we have the two streams of Journalism Practice and Journalism Studies in our coursework programs, and the PhD (Journalism) for research students.
From our position in a university, I am particularly interested in the question of what is journalism as an intellectual discipline, sitting alongside history, geography and sociology in the broad humanities. Journalism is, of course, a craft and a profession as well as a discipline and indeed an artform – none of which are mutually exclusive. In 2016 I have published a booklength examination of this question with Palgrave Macmillan What is Journalism? The Art and Politics of a Rupture.
The blurb for the book reads:
This is a deeply provocative and original book. It argues that journalism should treat itself academically as a discipline on a par with history, geography and sociology, and as an art form in its own right. Time, space, social relations and creative communication are intrinsic to journalism. Chris Nash takes the major flaws attributed to journalism – a crude empiricism driven by an un-reflexive ‘news sense’, a narrow focus on a de-contextualised, transient present, and a too intimate familiarity with powerful sources – and treats them as methodological challenges. Drawing on the conceptual frameworks of Gaye Tuchman, Pierre Bourdieu, David Harvey, Henri Lefebvre, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, and Sergei Tretiakov, he explores the ways in which rigorous journalism practice can be theorised to meet these challenges. The argument proceeds through detailed case studies of work by two leading iconoclasts – the artist Hans Haacke and the 20th century journalist I.F. Stone. It concludes that the academic understanding of journalism is fifty years behind their practice, and it is long past time for scholars and practitioners to think about journalism as a rigorous disciplinary research practice.
The approach is exploratory. The book opens with a question about the significance for journalism of conceptual art, and in particular the work of Hans Haacke. Some key aspects of Haacke’s work that I think are relevant to contemporary journalism are
- the way he strips back the material art object to the bare necessary minimum, which then poses extensive questions about the social significance of the object, particularly those that provoke controversy – this resonates with the relationship in journalism between facts and newsworthiness.
- the way he is able to identify precise points of conflict in social relations and institutional values, and produce an object (fact) that calls forth the protagonists in the conflict to act and reveal themselves and their interests – in journalistic terms, he has a highly refined news sense.
- the significance of the place of exhibition/publication, particularly for those exhibitions that were successfully (or not) banned – are the legacy news media a tamed location for the publication of important information?