Journalism schools should inspire an entrepreneurial attitude that acknowledges the need to engage with various professional disciplines in order to produce the journalism of the future, according to the new professor of journalism at University of Technology, Sydney, Peter Fray.
Drawing on his experience as founder of Politifact Australia, the outgoing deputy editor of The Australian said journalism students should be encouraged to collaborate with people like coders and designers.
“UTS has had a long and distinguished record for producing generations of journalists for the likes of Fairfax and News Corp and the ABC and long may that continue,” he said. “But we need to also produce journalists who are prepared to go and sit in a garage in their underwear for two years and produce the next killer app.”
Mr Fray will step into the newly created Professor of Practice in Journalism position in November and will oversee a review of the UTS journalism curriculum.
The veteran journalist and commentator said he would focus on strengthening ties with industry, addressing the challenges of journalism in the 21st century and ensuring graduates have the practical skills needed to enter the modern journalism workforce.
“Virtually every aspect of journalism has changed in the last decade,” Mr Fray said. “I think we just need to be in a position to review what’s being taught and at the same time I plan to spend a lot of time with the industry, talking to them about what they want and how they see things evolving and then it’s a marrying of what is taught and what industry wants.
“At the same time there are some roles for deep research and there’s a role for developing a more entrepreneurial sense among journalists.”
Mr Fray will replace senior academic and journalist Alan Knight who left UTS late last year, however the Professor of Practice in Journalism is a newly created role for UTS.
UTS dean of faculty of arts and social sciences Mary Spongberg said the position was created to oversee the development of the best practice-based journalism curriculum in the Southern Hemisphere and to develop a research focus on understanding the technological transformation in the media industry.
“UTS has always looked to visionary leaders in their field and we very much see Peter Fray as a thought leader, a significant agent of transformation and visionary on a global scale.”
As well as launching fact-checking website PolitiFact in Australia, Mr Fray is a former editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald. He also has been accepted into the 2016 fellowship program at City University of New York’s Tow-Knight Centre for Entrepreneurial Journalism.
Mr Fray wants to explore ways to bring ideas, innovation “and perhaps even money” from the industry back into the university.
When asked about media criticism of some journalism schools, including UTS, because of alleged ideological bias, Mr Fray said he would be mindful of these concerns but he was more interested in achieving better outcomes for academics and students.
“I do think ideological crusades, whether they’re from the left or the right, are at best a distraction and at worst a flaw in getting the right results,” he said.
“I get the sense that universities now are pretty much more interested in innovation, business if you like, and fulfilling their very important role of producing great students and employing great academics and adding to the sum total of human knowledge rather than fighting ideological wars from the 1970s.”