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October 8, 2013

Professor John Tulloch: A Tribute

Filed under: Blogroll, ethical space editors blog, Headlines — news_editor @ 8:19 pm

Professor John Tulloch, former Head of the School of Journalism at the University of Lincoln (LSJ) and a key figure in the development of journalism in higher education both in this country and internationally over the last 40 years, has died after a long illness aged 67. John was also a key member of the ICE executive group, was books editor of Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics, and he gave many insightful, highly original and memorable papers to ICE annual conferences over recent years.

Dr Fiona Thompson, director of ICE, commented: “In ancient Greek writings, a term was used – dikaios – which means a just and honest man or, as Rudolf Bultmann translates it, ‘the quality and situation of being turned in the right direction’ – that’s what John did, turned us in the right direction.”

Under his leadership from 2004 to 2012, the LSJ rose to being one of the leading journalism schools in the country, launching, for instance, innovative Masters programmes in peace journalism, science and arts journalism and the country’s only BA in investigative journalism. He also played a crucial role in building up the LSJ’s close links with the internationally acclaimed investigative journalist John Pilger. Significantly, when Pilger was awarded the Grierson Trust’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, he asked John Tulloch to give the welcome speech, which was much acclaimed. John Pilger commented: “Whereas journalism is taught competently elsewhere, it was invested with its due ethical and inspirational quality by John Tulloch – both at Lincoln and abroad.”

John Tulloch had an enormous curiosity about life. He was a true polymath; indeed, his breadth and depth of knowledge never ceased to amaze: music (of all genres), films, history, literature, art, politics, war and peace journalism, travel, robots! – these were just a few of his interests. He claimed to own 20,000 books. His home in Finchley, north London, the small house he rented in Lincoln and his office at the university were certainly bursting with them. But John had read just about all of them in depth – and remembered what he read. So a conversation with John was usually an education in itself. He knew vast swathes of literature (much of Shakespeare’s plays, for instance) by heart.

India was a particular love. I once said to him: “Ideally you would like to spend half of each year in India.” “No,” he replied vigorously, “nine months.” He thus gained particular pleasure from 1994 to 2003 from his management of the Chevening Award Programme for Young Indian Journalists at the University of Westminster, funded by the Foreign Office and organised by the British Council, New Delhi,– and again at the University of Lincoln in 2007.

John was bought up in west London and went to Latymer Upper School where he formed life-long friendships, maintaining contact and crossing professional paths with former school mates for more than fifty years. John was representative of a generation that rode a meritocratic wave, securing a wonderful school and undergraduate education: tutored by able and broad minded teachers in the company of a stellar cohort of contemporaries. After completing a BA (Hons) in English Literature at York University from 1965-1968 and a short spell in journalism in London at the now defunct City Press and Building Design, he completed a postgraduate diploma in education at the University of Edinburgh in 1972 – moving on to do further postgraduate study in Leeds. In 1970 he had met Pat O’Callaghan, a PhD researcher, and they wed in 1975.

Though with impeccable form as a practising professional journalist, at heart John was an academic. But not only was he a researcher and teacher but he was able to cope with all the administrative chores (becoming expert, for instance, in writing out all the complex documentation needed for programme validations) whilst delighting in inspiring and supporting his colleagues and encouraging his students to achieve their best. Moving in to higher education, in 1974, at the University of Westminster (then the Polytechnic of Central London), where he later became Head of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication from 1995-2003, John joined the country’s first BA Media Studies programme.

PCL provided the base from which, during the late 1970s, he designed media courses for trade unionists in collaboration with the TUC and, in 1984, John led the first positive action journalism training course in the UK, backed by the Commission for Racial Equality, the BBC and the National Union of Journalists. In 1990 he designed the first part-time Master’s course in journalism and later launched the first MA in public communication and PR.

At the LSJ, he redesigned the undergraduate programme, created Lincoln’s first MA in Journalism and launched a unique Journalism PhD by Practice. Lincoln’s BA Journalism programme, under his leadership, gained awards and accreditation from all the industry bodies and was “Recognised for Excellence” by the European Journalism Training Association. But throughout his time in higher education John held a healthy suspicion of authority – a necessary attribute, one could argue, for survival.

His contribution to the development of journalism education nationally and internationally was vast. He was an external examiner at more than a dozen universities at both BA and MA levels in the UK – and he served as visiting professor or curriculum development consultant at a wide range of higher education institutions across the globe – including Sweden, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, Yemen, France, Ireland and Malta.

His writings and research interests were both wide and innovative. He co-edited two major international collections of essays on literary journalism (New York: Peter Lang 2012 and forthcoming 2014) and Peace Journalism, War and Conflict Resolution (New York, Peter Lang 2010). He maintained a constant critique of the ethics of the corporate media but always loved the tabloids for their cheeky irreverence. As John Mair, chair of the Institute of Communication Ethics, commented: “I’m sure he will be scribbling away, wherever he may be.”

He leaves his wife, Pat, and three daughters, Katherine, Lucy and Isabel, two grandsons, Oliver and Henry, sons-in-law, Paul and Nicholas and a host of friends.

Richard Lance Keeble

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