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Paul Bethell's academic career began in 2002 after a successful career as a senior TV news journalist over 20 years with BBC News in London. His approach to university teaching and learning seeks to bring his passion for the newsroom and the rapidly evolving journalism industry into the classroom to build a stimulating learning experience. This manifests itself in two distinct ways. Firstly, Paul seeks to locate the learning experience for students within a practical, industry-based, experiential learning context which gives them skills and insights that will directly relate and transfer to the journalism workplace. Secondly, he applies the high-level communication and presentation skills acquired as a news broadcaster to his teaching in order to engage and influence students in learning. This involves translating, explaining and effectively communicating complex, detailed information to students, in the same way that he did for television audiences in BBC news bulletins. The BBC’s charter gives staff the responsibility to ‘inform, educate and entertain’. Paul believes that education and information are also essential to the student learning experience but that to communicate the key learning effectively, teaching sometimes also needs an element of 'entertainment' to engage and involve students and to inspire and motivate them to learn.
For example, in the unit media law and ethics, which some students initially perceive as complex, theoretical and hard to understand, Paul frames unit content within contemporary, relevant, high profile examples of published and broadcast journalism. Defamation is explained through cases involving media personalities such as Bec and Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Newman; privacy is explored through stories about Lara Bingle, Therese Rein and Catherine Zeta-Jones; contempt of court is explained by reference to Underbelly and Melbourne’s gangland murder cases, and copyright through reference to J. K. Rowling and The Da Vinci Code. Paul also encourages discussion of these legal concepts within the context of publishing on social networking sites which students are familiar with and relate to directly, such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.
In other journalism units, Paul seeks ways of closely replicating the newsroom reality of the modern multimedia reporter. Doing real journalism and experiencing and practising firsthand what the job requires is seen as the most effective way to teach the range of skills and acquire the knowledge that a successful journalist needs. Augmenting real-world-like experiences though, in a quality higher education journalism environment, requires Paul to challenge students through the provision of appropriate theoretical perspectives and the associated processes of critical reflection. Paul provides continual support, guidance and feedback as well as elementary technical training in the use of digital recording equipment. Learning is constantly informed by examples of current news stories enabling students to benchmark and critically reflect on their own work. Group discussion and feedback are encouraged. Students reflect on the key skills that they recognise they have learned from the exercise.
Paul maintains strong industry links and actively contributes to professional development in a range of settings. He also works extensively with secondary schools and has taught journalism at a number of Deakin’s partner institutions in India