My latest Socialist Academic Profile looks at Auckland University of Technology School of Communication Studies curriculum leader, Dr Martin Hirst.
According to the AUT website;
Dr Hirst joined the School of Communication Studies at AUT University in January 2007, after a 12 year teaching and research career in Australian journalism education. He has an extensive background in academic research in journalism and communication/media studies and is the co-author of three books: Look both ways: Fairfield, Cabramatta and the media (2001, with Antonio Castillo), Journalism Ethics: Arguments and Cases (2005, with Roger Patching) and Communications and New Media: Broadcast to narrowcast (2007, with John Harrison).
Sounds impressive. A very experienced man for a very influential position. Dr Hirst will be influencing the course content for hundreds of NZ’s student journalists. He will be in a position to influence the way they think and most importantly, how they write.
One experienced journalist, the Dominion Post’s Karl Du Fresne is not quite so impressed with the good doctor.
Writing in the Dominion Post du fresne discusses a recent journalism seminar he attended;
Cleverly titled Journalism Matters, the seminar in Parliament’s Grand Hall had the declared aim of promoting “quality journalism”. It mixed a recitation of age-old union gripes – such as claims of understaffing and low pay – with debate over broader philosophical questions about where journalism is heading.
While the roster of speakers reflected an unmistakably left-wing agenda, the seminar attracted a handful of executives from the two big newspaper groups, Fairfax Media and APN, and covered some issues that transcended industrial politics, such as the threat to traditional mainstream news media from competitive pressures unforeseen a few years ago…
The political theme continued throughout the seminar, perhaps reaching its low point when the curriculum leader in journalism at the Auckland University of Technology, self-proclaimed socialist Martin Hirst, declared that journalism was not about reporting the world, but about changing the world.
This highly politicised interpretation of journalism, which sees journalists not as reporters trying impartially to cover matters of public interest but as agents of political change, is now so entrenched in some journalism schools that it barely raised an eyebrow.
That criticism has led to a media spat between Du Fresne and Hirst and some rather incredible statements by the latter.
I quote from today’s Christchurch Press;
First Hirst praises leftist journalist John Pilger
John Pilger’s crusading work over many years is another example of what I describe as the journalism of engagement.
Then he attacks the virtue of journalistic objectivity;
Objectivity as a principle of journalism is no longer the holy grail. The fact that some jornalism editors are prepared to say so and put such ideas in front of their students is just a recognition of this idea. In the respected Columbia Journalism Review, Brent Cunningham has written a thoughtful piece called “Rethinking Objectivity”. He makes the point that often it is an excuse for lazy journalism and that it forces reporters to rely on official sources. He also argues that it allows the news agenda to be captured by the “spin doctors”…
Then he discusses his socialist views;
My politics are in the tradition of international socialism…I don’t believe for a minute that the charade of democracy practised in the free market west is the be all and end all of human political development.
Well just how “socialist is Dr Hirst.
I can report that Dr Hirst joined a small Trotskyist sect while at university in Sydney in 1975.
I can also report that he remains a Trotskyist to this day.
Martin Hirst has been active in socialist politics since 1975 and claims to have been the only Trotskyist to ever work in the federal press gallery as a journalist
The bulk of the sites other contributors are members of the Australian or its recent splinter group, .
ISO is part of the , which is led by the British .
ISO is therefore, technically the sister party of NZ’s .
You’d therefore expect that Dr Hirst might have made contact with Socialist Worker since arriving in NZ.
I quote from the comments section of Australian blog Intercontinental Cry;
just a quick line to let you know there was a very militant occupation of the Australian Consulate in Auckland this evening against the invasion of Aboriginal lands and in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters facing John Howard’s racist attacks…
Socialist Worker, Aotearoa
very good speeches from all the groups in support-
Julia and Joe from Socialist Worker, Martin Hirst, Lecturer in Media studies at AUT, Jared from Workers Party, Jim Gladwin from Citizens against Privatisation, and statement read out from Kulin Nations and Aboriginal declaration of sovereignty’ by UNITY editor Daph Lawless in Consulate occupation that broke through police lines.
So there you have it.
Your taxes are paying a lifelong Trotskyist, who does not believe in objective journalism, to design curricula, to teach future Kiwi journalists how to work for “social change”.
Am I being fair to Dr Hirst here? Or am I being too “objective”?
You judge, dear reader. Its your world this man wants to change.