Scholar report: Tom Goldstein

In this scholar report, UC Berkeley Professor Tom Goldstein discusses his trip from California to Aarhus, Amsterdam and London.

2013.11.30 | Hannah Spyksma

Tom Goldstein, Professor of Journalism and Director of the Media Studies Program at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

I found my trip to three schools — the University of Amsterdam, the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Aarhus, and the City University, London, to be exhilarating and intellectually exciting. Preparing in advance a dozen or so lectures for different audiences forced me to reconsider many assumptions about journalism I had long held. Once I arrived, meeting individually with more than three dozen stimulating and thoughtful professors and professionals provided a crash course for me in international journalism.

The trip reinforced for me the wisdom of cultural exchanges. I had a special interest in this visit. Not only was I interested in the course material. I was also intrigued by how the different schools were administered. My perspective is that of someone who has spent a big chunk of my career as an administrator. I have been a dean of a graduate school of journalism in four different decades, at both Berkeley and Columbia. In addition for nearly a decade I have been the director of an interdisciplinary undergraduate media studies program at Berkeley. I have long believed that no two journalism programs or schools in the United States are alike. Now, I can amend that belief: no two journalism programs in the United States or Europe are alike. There are important similarities, however, that relate to a common mission and a mix of teaching technique, practical skills and theory. 

An extra bonus for me was that I was able to do research on a book on advertising and the news—some planned, some serendipitous—that never would have happened had I not been a Mundus scholar. Just one example: a few weeks before I left, I read in a U.S. magazine about how funerals have become a large and growing industry in Ghana. Classified pages in newspapers there are filled with lucrative full-color obituaries. I wanted to know more. The article I read quoted generously a scholar on such funerals. That scholar just happened to teach at Amsterdam, and my hosts readily arranged a visit with her. The scholar’s study related perfectly to my research on obituaries and classified advertising.

I have spoken of the benefits that I derived personally from my trip. I hope that I was able to contribute something useful in return — both to the professionals and professors with whom I met and to the students. The students were alert and thirsty for knowledge. They seemed curious — curious about journalism, curious about events in the world and curious about journalism in the United States. Without exception, they were an invigorating joy to teach. If I had to make one generalization, and I grant this is a big generalization, they seemed calmer about their choice of career than their counterparts in the United States. They seemed to take as a given the benefits they have derived from their time studying journalism.

My hosts were most generous, gracious and accommodating. They exhibited a level of kindness that I can only hope to reciprocate. I would like to single out Jo Bardoel in Amsterdam, Inger Munk and Hans-Henrik Holm in Aarhus, and Neil Thurman in London.

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