Argument and journalism: theory, practice, personal goals

Howard Finberg summarized a recent debate on an AEJMC* listserv about the value of the academy, and academic research, to everyday journalism.

There is, Finberg writes (I confess to not having worked through most the thread), a space between theory and practice that is abnormally wide for the field’s history. The practice crowd wants academia to become more accessible and produce more usable research. Finberg frames the problem in terms of a “customer”: So long as the customer of academic research is academics, there is little hope for narrowing the gap.

I try to not write about myself here, but Finberg’s post resonated with me. I wanted my thesis research to be useful professionally and academically, besides being interesting personally. I hoped it provided both groups something to think about; that it generated questions. I still want and hope those things (it’s in the “About” page, even).

Next month is a test for whether I am progressing on my goals. I will be presenting work at the annual AEJMC conference that is based on my thesis (I can’t post it here yet, but I hope to).

In my presentations I try to be pretty clear about wanting their content to be both academic and practical. But can I defend that claim in front of a crowd, next to scholars I have studied and admire?

At the same time, I am trying hard to not let the conference feel like a referendum. I know that in the long run, facing a series of difficult questions — struggling with them out loud, in public — is intellectually valuable.

* Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication


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