Dr Vine’s research focuses on the history, culture and sociological development of journalism ideology.
To the public, journalism often appears to have little or no boundaries. This is understandable; its rules are perplexing to conceptualise, and even more problematic to explain. This is partly because journalism is constantly battling for balance between freedom of speech and individual rights in a democratic society.
Dr Vine shares her research on the ways journalism can be understood by society and withstand the pressures brought to bear on those working in the industry.
The focus of your research is journalism’s ideology, how big a challenge is this for Australia and the world?
The focus of my research is the development of journalism’s values and belief system. Some of these are articulated in the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance’s Code of Ethics, and some are not. These include fairness, balance and accuracy. But journalism’s overriding value is freedom on the public sphere.
This value is recognised in democratic societies, but according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom on the public sphere is a basic human right irrelevant of geography. The major challenge, however, is that this freedom can harm the very rights journalism claims to protect (freedom from poverty, hunger, discrimination, etc). So much so that those in power can use this as an excuse to control journalism, while removing any mechanism of accountability.
This is a huge challenge for journalism around the world, including some democratic societies such as Australia, which has neither a Bill of Rights, nor First Amendment that overtly states journalism has a right to maintain freedom on the public sphere. Journalism, then, relies on its underlying ideological value and belief system to understand how to function.
What’s your goal what do you seek to learn and teach?
I want my students to leave RMIT Journalism with a sound understanding that concepts such as fairness, sensitivity and objectivity have always got to be balanced with the overriding right to freedom on the public sphere.
In journalism, there is always someone, somewhere, who wants to control your work. So, in my research, I want to discover the role of legacy journalism, and its features (such as newsrooms), in conveying professional values and beliefs, such as protecting freedom in the public sphere. If the features of legacy journalism are disappearing, then the industry really needs to find something to replace it with, before these universal and eternal values and beliefs dissipate.
What is your approach in your work?
My approach has always been to teach journalism theory (fairness, balance, accuracy) through its practice. Getting down to its nuts-and-bolts, the practice of journalism is much like learning a musical instrument – you start with easy exercises, then practice, practice, practice, until you’re ready to move on to more sophisticated pieces. This is why I get students writing from tutorial one, and don't let them stop until week 12. By that time – hopefully – they’re ready to move onto the next level.
What drew you this to the specific field?
Coming from industry, I know journalism is not the easiest of occupations. Although quality professionals are key to our democratic society, they are rarely thanked for protecting freedom on the public sphere and are often actively obstructed in going about their vital work. This is why it’s so important to ensure journalism’s professional values and beliefs are understood and cherished right at the beginning of a journalist’s career.
When I first started in this job, I was astounded at how student journalists were unable to grasp their basic responsibility to protect freedom in the public sphere from those who wish to control it. But once you start examining this responsibility through a cultural-historiographical paradigm, it all becomes much more urgent and exciting.
What has been the proudest moment in your research career so far?
I could say being awarded my PhD, but that wouldn’t be true. I have had many, many “proudest” moments, and these are when I see one of my former students reporting for Sky News, the ABC, Channel Nine news, or hear them on ABC radio or 3AW, or see their by-lines in print. Just occasionally, I hear about a former student winning an award for great journalism – that’s my proudest moment by far!