Journalism Education in Countries with Limited Media Freedom. Josephi Beate (ed.) (2010). New York: Peter Lang. pp. 280.
Journalism education programs have enjoyed a dramatic expansion globally since the 1990s. As of 2007, there were 1,859 journalism education institutions across the world, according to the World Journalism Education Census (Center for International Media Assistance, http://www.ellenhume.com/articles/education.pdf). Against this background, the edited volume Journalism Education in Countries with Limited Media Freedom offers a better understanding of the meanings and implications of the growth of journalism education in non-Western societies. It stands out among numerous books on journalism education by taking a comparative perspective, not in conflict with a global view, and focuses on the development and current status of journalism education in transitional societies over the past few decades.
The editor, Josephi, selects twelve individual countries as case studies. The chapter contributors examine the sociopolitical context, media landscape, journalism education and training programs, and the norms and values informing journalism education. They then evaluate the socialization process to compare journalism education with the actual situation challenging journalists. In assessing these dimensions, the book estimates the role of journalism education amid political and social change. What follows are some of the most interesting issues and questions raised in the book.
Josephi and contributors first gauge the relationship between journalism education and media system. They scrutinize journalism education based on different levels of media freedom in the countries selected. According to Freedom House, in 2009, journalists in 60% of the world’s nations worked under partially free or non-free conditions. Using this criterion, the chapters are grouped region by region, and then the countries are ranked within the region from the least free to the freest per Freedom House scores. The twelve case studies cover four continents: Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. Among the chosen countries, six do not have a free media system (Cambodia, Singapore, Oman, Russia, China, and Palestine), and the other six are in the “partially free” category (Croatia, Brazil, Romania, Tanzania, Egypt, and Kenya).
While we see the idiosyncrasy of journalism education in these twelve countries, shaped by different political settings as the contributors indicate, their similarities seem to be more visible throughout these chapters. Josephi argues that journalism education is not necessarily indicative of a country’s media system and concludes that journalism education and media system “are not linked in any systematic way” (p. 254).
It is worth noting that the Western influence is more or less present in the journalism education of these countries, which can be roughly grouped into two types. The first group is comprised of early adopters of the Western model. For example, China introduced the “Missouri model” to establish its first journalism school in the early twentieth century, although it was later overtaken by Soviet practices under Mao. Since the market-driven reform took off in the late 1970s, China’s journalism education “has evolved into a mixed creature,” featuring “Russian-style operation built on an American foundation” (p. 19). Historical factors, such as colonial ties in Singapore and Kenya, also leave marks in journalism education (p. 254).
The other group of countries is characterized by recently embracing the Western model. Cambodia, for example, is “a country where journalism education came as an import as part of foreign aid programs” (p. 6). In Croatia, the “European standards” were well implemented in its journalism education (p. 247). This sudden facelift or forced change of the mindset of current or future journalists may be regarded as a particular component of the “shock therapy” that these post-communist societies went through. This “outside help in establishing…journalism education” (p. 8.) can also be seen in Kenya and Tanzania. Besides the academic programs at universities, training programs in these countries also somewhat follow the Western model—a phenomenon researchers have attributed to the strong involvement of American and European NGOs in Southeast Asia, Africa, and post-communist Europe. As a result, journalism education has become more and more similar globally, as Josephi argues.
Nevertheless, the Western influence on journalism education in many of these countries is altered to be compatible with local styles. There are at least two types of journalism education, for example, co-existing in Egypt. The Western model was institutionalized in the foreign-owned or -managed universities, whereas the prevailing system, defined as the “benevolent-authoritarian” format (p. 123), was adopted in more schools. The universal view about the role of journalism in society is unavoidably modified by local realities.
While arguing that journalism education is “far less bound up in national context than journalism practice” (p. 254), Josephi raises a question about the correlation between journalism education and the socialization process of journalists. This question is lurking when we try to interpret how journalists fresh from school come to terms with the rule of the game in the profession and how they cope with the norms, values, and political and cultural constraints in the newsroom, which may be contradictory to what they learned in the classroom. This discrepancy, due to the “rift between classroom teaching and industry reality” (p. 7), has affected the socialization of journalists as well as their professional practice.
In Singapore, for example, the socialization process has an “insidious effect” on the self-censorship of would-be journalists, even though it does not impose a direct punishment “against unruly moves.” In Cambodia, professional standards decline because of government legislation and deteriorating professional circumstances. The problems of job security and poor pay, among others, are also annoying journalists in Kenya and Tanzania, which “makes it difficult for them to practice their profession as they would like” (p. 148), and journalistic ethics are ignored by and large. Likewise, journalism students have to face “editorial and political pressures, poverty, and corruption” in the post-communist Romania (p. 228). In this sense, the socialization process may undermine the improvements that have been made in journalism education in these countries and disillusion those taught the universal values upheld by journalists before having to face both difficult political challenges and such personal impediments as low pay and social status.
In addition to calling to attention the disconnection between what is taught and what can be practiced, Josephi further inquires whether or not journalism education can function as the antecedent of social change in countries with transitional media systems (p. 253). She believes that journalism education, due to the Western influence, can play the role of “a potential agent of change,” encouraging the civic engagement that respects diversified values in a more “informed and deliberative society” (p. 259). Her positive answer is supported by the optimistic projections of the roles of journalism education in the democratization of both media and the state in certain countries such as Croatia (p. 10) and Tanzania (p. 170), among others.
It should be noted, however, in these countries, neither media nor journalism education can serve as the “engine of change,” as they do not “operate outside the society” (p. 49). In this sense, the ultimate question still remains. That is, does journalism education have the power of dealing with the challenges brought by the unique circumstances of each country in transition for an eventual promotion of social progress, or does it just mirror the changes taking place and is shaped by them?
By drawing an outline of the development in journalism education and practice in twelve countries based on their levels of media freedom, this edited volume delineates the role of journalism education in rapidly changing societies. It juxtaposes the universality of journalism education against particular sociopolitical backgrounds. With many insights, keen observations, and stimulating thoughts, this book is not only good for journalism educators, but also valuable for scholars studying news production and professionalism, as well as the relationships between journalism and social change, especially from a comparative perspective.
GANG (KEVIN) HAN
Iowa State University