Scholar report: Colleen Murrell

Former BBC news editor Colleen Murrell reports on her trip from Deakin University, Australia, to City University, London, as part of the Mundus Journalism scholar exchange.

2007.10.16 | Hannah Spyksma

Colleen Murrell received an Erasmus Mundus Scholar stipend to spend time at City University, London, in 2007. A former news editor with the BBC, ITN and APTN, Colleen is a senior lecturer in Journalism at Deakin University in Australia. She is also a part-time PhD student at The University of Melbourne.

"The Erasmus Mundus scholarship provided a fantastic fillip to my PhD research on the role of the fixer in foreign newsgathering. While in London I managed to interview twelve television foreign correspondents and senior managers from ITN, Sky and the BBC. I also touched base with a number of international fixers through contacts, City University and the Frontline Club. I even managed to track down Michael Ware, CNN’s Baghdad correspondent, while he was covering the Rugby World Cup in Paris. I would never have been able to do this without the grant, as getting hold of foreign correspondents is never easy. I had to reschedule many of these interviews several times due to the reporters being sent off on stories at the last minute. My research concentrates pretty heavily on the current situation of reporting in Iraq and I was thrilled to interview the BBC Baghdad bureau chief, the BBC’s current Baghdad correspondent, two Iraqi fixers and many other reporters who had spent time covering the war in Iraq.

I even managed to track down Michael Ware, CNN’s Baghdad correspondent, while he was covering the Rugby World Cup in Paris. I would never have been able to do this without the grant, as getting hold of foreign correspondents is never easy. 

The other highlights of my trip were traveling to Aarhus to give a lecture on my research at The Danish School of Journalism; giving an audio recording workshop to students at City University and hearing David Leigh from the Guardian give his inaugural lecture “The End of the Reporter?” at City. I presented a paper on verification of citizen journalism at the Future of Newspapers conference at Cardiff University. I also gave a lecture on the Australian digital scene at The Futures Conference at Earls Court.

I was really happy to find City University’s Journalism Department was still such a busy and exciting place. I studied for a Masters degree in International Journalism there 20 years ago and remember the year as one of the most stimulating of my youth! As part of my nostalgic pilgrimage I visited Lincoln University to track down my former City lecturer Professor Richard Keeble, who gave me plenty of useful advice about my research. I am now writing this while trapped under a pile of interview data from which I am trying to extract PhD chapters and conference papers. I would like to give my grateful thanks to Inger Munk and the Erasmus programme for giving me a few months’ grace during which I was able to carry out so much of my fieldwork. I would also like to thank Adrian Monck and Neil Thurman for their friendship during my stay at City University."

Update, 2016: Colleen is now a Senior Lecturer at Monash University and received her PhD from the University of Melbourne in 2011. She is an avid twitter user, under the moniker @ivorytowerjourn 

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Tags: scholar, exchange, erasmus mundus, journalism studies, foreign correspondents, research