Posted Friday 3 February 2017
A US professor who specialises in journalism education has been awarded the first PhD by Prior Publication by Kingston University's School of Humanities for her research into how developments in the profession affect teaching of the discipline.
Debora Wenger, an experienced broadcast journalist and associate professor and director of undergraduate journalism at the University of Mississippi, joined more than 2,600 fellow students to receive her award at January's graduation ceremonies, held at the borough's Rose Theatre.
Despite an established career specialising in training multimedia journalism at universities and newsrooms across the United States, Ms Wenger said she felt that gaining a PhD qualification proved there was always the chance continue to develop, plus demonstrated to students the value of life-long learning.
I think it's important for teachers to show students that it is a privilege to be a scholar and I feel both honoured and humbled to receive the award," said Ms Wenger. "As a journalist, I hate unanswered questions, and my research interests were sparked by my need to know how changes in the field of journalism would and will continue to play out, as well as how those changes must affect my teaching."
A PhD by Prior Publication is based on research that has already been undertaken and Ms Wenger submitted two books she has co-authored – Advancing the Story: Journalism in a Multimedia World and Managing Today's News Media: Audience First – which focus on the changes in the world of journalism and how to apply these principles to teaching the subject. Ms Wenger – who has just been named among the top 10 best journalism educators in the United States by US trade magazine NewsPro – also submitted a series of academic articles and an accompanying text that explained the relevance and impact of her research on the discipline of journalism.
Associate professor Beth Brewster, head of the department of journalism and publishing at Kingston University, said the award was a significant development for the department. "As a department of practitioners we are particularly pleased that the School's first PhD by Prior Publication should be awarded to a noted journalism educator whose research spans both industry and academy," she added.
Ms Wenger admitted she hadn't considered exploring the opportunity to build upon her research and gain an academic qualification until she met Dr David Rogers, director of Kingston Writing School, who encouraged her to apply for a PhD during a chance meeting while he was visiting the University of Mississippi.
Ms Wenger completed her PhD while teaching full-time, receiving long-distance supervision from Kingston University associate professor in publishing, Dr Alison Baverstock, who emphasised the relevance of the award to a profession-orientated discipline such as journalism, which combines professional practice with academic thinking. "A PhD by Prior Publication enables lecturers, who need the same blend of professional experience and rigorous thinking, to take a body of work that has been published within the wider world – and is often the basis of their teaching – and have it validated within higher education," Dr Baverstock said.
In addition to teaching, Ms Wenger is now working on a research project which seeks to identify and explore the most innovative and engaged local television stations in the US and says she's already benefitting from the experience of working with her peers at Kingston University.
"Working with Dr Alison Baverstock and Dr David Rogers has been the chance of a lifetime," said Ms Wenger. "Having the opportunity to grow as a scholar and as a person through the experience provided by the University is already opening new doors for me and is something for which I'll be forever grateful."