Mirabelle Morah

Interview with Karen Fowler-Watt of Bournemouth University, UK

New Journalisms: Rethinking Practice, Theory and Pedagogy

Title: New Journalisms: Rethinking Practice, Theory and Pedagogy

Written by: Mirabelle Morah

Description: Karen Fowler-Watt shares insight on new book, which comprises of contributions from the Salzburg Media Academy faculty

This article was originally published on/for Salzburg Global Seminar. 

In an era of fake news, distrust and further uncertainties on the power of journalism and the role of the media, British academics Karen Fowler-Watt and Stephen Jukes have emerged with a new book, titled New Journalisms: Rethinking Practice, Theory and Pedagogy.

Edited by Fowler-Watt and Jukes, New Journalisms explores a series of key themes, from the new challenges involved in defining the term “new journalisms,” to how a re-imagination of journalism education can lead to improving pedagogies, and how new journalism practices can be formed, offering new ways of telling human stories.

The edited collection brings together leading academics, journalists and emerging researchers as its contributors, many of whom are part of the faculty of the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change. Launched in 2007, the Salzburg Academy now counts nearly 1000 alumni in its ranks from 70 countries around the globe, with 16 universities on five continents sending students to take part in 2019.

Karen Fowler-Watt is a senior principal academic at Bournemouth University in the UK, where she researches the need for journalism education at the university’s Center of Excellence in Media Practice. Speaking in an interview with Salzburg Global Seminar, Fowler-Watt shared more insight into the conceptualization of the book New Journalisms, as well as its content.

“The idea really came to my colleague, Stephen Jukes. He’s actually the reason that any of us came to Salzburg. He founded the partnership with Bournemouth University and the Academy [on Media and Global Change] when it was set up at the very beginning,” she disclosed.

“Both of us wanted to produce a book, which we wanted to be an edited volume, and wanted to put down some of the thoughts that we’d had, and we had been discussing with colleagues around reimagining journalism and rethinking journalism.”

The idea to produce a book on new journalisms, as Fowler-Watt explained, was immediately received with “huge energy.” The leading journalists and researchers with whom they discussed the idea had positive thoughts towards the subject matter and were eager to share their own knowledge in the book.

Speaking on the pluralization of journalisms, Fowler-Watt emphasizes that she sees the pluralization as important because New Journalisms does not only focus on the “new challenges facing journalism (in the singular), but also seeks to capture a range of new practices that are being employed across a diversity of media.”

One of the topics also covered in New Journalisms is the aspect of social media, which is playing an ever-greater role in the dissemination of information. Jukes and Fowler-Watt in New Journalisms highlight both the disruptive aspects of social media as well as the remarkable opportunities it provides, especially for citizen journalists, such as being able “to hear stories of normal life coming out of Syria,” Fowler-Watt recounted.

“This is not saying ‘professional journalism is the way ahead, forget citizen journalists’… We can be different types of journalists, and I think a key chapter is the ‘Global Voices’ one from Ivan Sigal who’s a Fellow of the Academy,” she said about the different types of journalism while referencing to the chapter on “Connecting publics through Global Voices.”

But further on social media usage, Fowler-Watt also has personal concerns about media literacy for a younger audience, especially with the outpouring of information and fake news on the internet.

“I think a concern I would say, is the inability or the lack of desire [for young people] to read further, and so a young person might feel that they’re very well-informed as they flick through their various news feeds.”

Information received via peers is more readily believed. However, Fowler-Watt has more concerns than disinformation and fake news. A more pertinent issue to her is “whether young people are reading in depth, are developing a critical awareness and a critically reflective approach to the media that they’re consuming,” Fowler explained.

New Journalisms has so far received positive reviews, and Fowler-Watt acknowledges Salzburg Global Seminar as a part of the success story for the book, calling the organization a “remarkable place,” while also being grateful to colleagues from the Salzburg Academy who contributed to the book, on various topics.

“Over a dozen years the Academy has driven a global movement for media literacy… and challenged scholars to rethink everything they thought they knew. Arising from this wind tunnel, New Journalisms offers thinking we desperately need to address information overload and manipulation,” Stephen Salyer, President and CEO of Salzburg Global Seminar said in his endorsement of the book.

The chapters contributed by faculty from the Academy include: “New journalisms, new challenges” by Stephen Jukes and Karen Fowler-Watt; “Journalists in search of identity” by Stephen Jukes; “Connecting publics through Global Voices” by Ivan Sigal; “Images: reported, remembered, invented, contested” by Susan D. Moeller; “New Journalisms, new pedagogies” by Karen Fowler-Watt; “Civic intentionality and transformative potential of journalism pedagogies” by Paul Mihailidis, Roman Gerodimos, and Megan Fromm; “Emergent narratives for times of crisis – ideas on documentary art and critical pedagogy” by Pablo Martinez-Zárate; “Genocide and the mediation of human rights: pedagogies for difficult stories” by Stephen Reese and Jad Melki.

“This is not the first book that has come out of the Academy,” Fowler-Watt said in a cheerful voice and with a smile on her face.

“For me personally, as a little autobiographical moment here, it’s been an incredibly important project because it has really encouraged me to reflect on so much. I have developed relationships with people whom I respect hugely, massively and admire incredibly. And I feel that we are a group of people who would support each other, trust each other, [and] listen carefully to each other,” she emphasized.

On her future hopes for New Journalisms, Fowler-Watt hopes that the book will be disseminated widely enough for lay people – non-academics and non-journalists – to easily pick up and think about its content. She also hopes that it would be integrated into the teaching curriculum and be a book that journalism practitioners will value.

“It’s written in very accessible prose,” she said.

“[And] I think there’s something for a lot of different people to take away from it. I really hope so.”

More information about the book, New Journalisms: Rethinking Practice, Theory and Pedagogy can be found here. The Salzburg Global Seminar program, The Cost of Disbelief: Fracturing Societies and the Erosion of Trust, is part of the multi-year Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change. More information on this multi-year series is available here.

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