Three-D Issue 20: Chair’s report

sue-thornhamSue Thornham, University of Sussex

This issue of Three-D is the first to appear following the hugely successful Derry conference. As always, the conference offered a mix of academic papers, policy debates, pedagogic discussions, screenings and exhibitions. What was particularly impressive for those who, like me, had little previous familiarity with the city, was the ways in which Derry itself, its present, its history and the history of its representations, were woven into the conference, to give an added sharpness to the debates about policy, history, media and representation that are central to our field.

These debates continue in this issue, in the aftermath of Leveson and what seems, for the moment at least, to have been agreed between the political parties as the way forward in the early hours of Monday 18th March. In addition to the current debates, Pat Holland’s piece gives us a historical perspective – ‘lessons from the 1980s’, reminding us again of the importance of history to media studies. This is a point also made by James Curran in his splendid defence of the subject. He, too, makes interesting connections with the Leveson Inquiry and its aftermath when he suggests that one reason for the repeated, excessive and often vitriolic attacks on media studies by journalists may be the perceived threat that the subject poses, since media departments ‘employ academics, who fuel public criticism of the press, with the potential in the view of some to shackle press freedom’. Such anxieties, of course, serve to underline the importance of our field, with its refusal to separate the acquisition of skills from the broader critical, theoretical and historical perspectives which should underpin their application.  It will be depressing, if predictable, if the obvious lessons about the narrowness of older forms of non-academic journalism training, with their lack of critical and reflective content, go unheeded in the wake of Leveson.

The conference also saw the election of a new committee – see opposite – and annual reports from both the Executive Committee and its networks. Three-D, together with the website, give us the opportunity to report back on activities throughout the year, but reading the yearly summaries it is notable just how active and successful the MeCCSA networks are, and how broadly and dynamically they conceive our subject field. Where we do not wholly represent an area, either geographically or by subject mix, we have made connections with other organisations, whilst networks like the Policy Network extend these connections outwards beyond HEIs. Finally, we are now actively engaging with schools and colleges as they seek to retain and promote a subject area that has been under attack most recently at sixth form level: the MeCCSA leaflet, which has been sent to member departments and is available on the website, is also going out to schools, colleges and careers officers.

As we look ahead, there’s a reminder in this issue that the next conference will be in Bournemouth. For 2015 and 2016 we’re following our recent policy of inviting bids for both years. We’ll be looking at these at our next Executive meeting in early May. In the meantime, the website, mailing list, network events and, of course, Three-D itself provide opportunities to continue the debates and discussions enjoyed at Derry.

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