By Roger Patching, JERAA life member
In December, 1975, 12 journalism educators from all over Australia met at Mitchell College of Advanced Education, Bathurst, to form their own association.
This was known at first as the Australian Association for Tertiary Education in Journalism (AATEJ) until 1980. From 1980 – 2008 we were known as The Journalism Education Association (JEA) and we were incorporated in 2008 to become the Journalism Education Association of Australia (Inc). Following a member vote in 2014, the association’s name was changed to the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (Inc).
Founding members described the Association as a “kind of fraternal grouping” of former journalists adjusting to their new role as teachers. More importantly, the Association was also founded to “raise the standard of teaching in journalism” through fostering research and scholarship to expand the body of knowledge about the theory and practice of journalism.
For approximately the first 10 years, the Association’s annual conferences concentrated on exchanging information about curricula, assignments, and relations with academics from other areas of study. Relationships with employers of journalists, the Australian Journalists’ Association and the profession were also on the agenda; as were exchanges of information about how to create a balance between theory and practice in journalism education. The discussions among members ranged from what should the relationship be between vocational units and a “liberal arts education”, to whether the best balance could be achieved by handing over the theoretical elements of journalism courses to communication/media studies academics.
Prior to 1987 the time devoted to formal paper presentation at the JERAA annual conferences was restricted to less than a day. At least two days of each conference were taken up by the annual meeting at which the contemporary issues of journalism education – often described in “reports” – were discussed at length. The considerable time needed for these discussions was partly due to the differences among the courses. Speakers often had to explain the structures and contents of their courses before their reports could be understood by other members. In 1987 the annual conferences was expanded to include several days of presentation of papers. Some of the later presenters came from overseas journalism courses, particularly in New Zealand and other countries in the South Pacific.
Don Woolford edited a newsletter and then a journal for the AATEJ which grew into the Australian Journalism Review. This was transformed into a refereed journal when John Henningham took over the editorship in 1982. In his first edition, Volume 5, Number 1, January 1983, Henningham wrote:
“It is a pity that much of the research work and theorising in the academic media field goes unread and undiscussed by practising journalists. This is largely the fault of the researchers, who all too often fail to appreciate how to make their work meaningful and relevant to the practitioners. … AJR is not the only media journal in Australia, but it is unique in its emphasis on journalists and the news media.” (p. 2)
He insisted that academics, particularly journalism academics, could contribute through their research and publications to the profession of journalism.
JEA was incorporated in 2008 to become the Journalism Education Association of Australia (Inc), and that following a member vote in 2014, the association’s name was changed to the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (Inc).
O’Donnell, Penny and van Heekeren, Margaret. JERAA@40: Towards a history of the professional association of Australian journalism academics [online]. Australian Journalism Review, Vol. 37, No. 2, Dec 2015: 3-20. Availability: <https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=840984654717669;res=IELAPA> ISSN: 0810-2686. [cited 22 Sep 19].