Journalism education godfather retires…again (but not really)
RIVER REVISITED: Dave Dannefaerd (left) and Jim Tucker examine the Waiwhakaiho River in New Plymouth. Mr Dannefaerd was president of the Taranaki Acclimatisation Society when Mr Tucker (shown at Whitireia, at right) wrote about water pollution 40 years ago.
ONE of New Zealand’s pre-eminent journalism educators, Jim Tucker, is retiring from teaching after 27 years.
Mr Tucker (66) leaves his position as the Associate Dean of Arts at Whitireia’s Community Polytechnic on August 2 to return to his hometown, New Plymouth.
He plans to complete a book on the state of Taranaki’s waterways, a follow-up to an investigation he published about water pollution in 1972.
The book, tentatively titled “Farming, Fracking and Fishing with Flies – the Taranaki Water Story”, is due for release in 2014.
A number of leading industry figures paid tribute to Mr Tucker’s contribution to journalism education.
“In all my experience, I have never heard an unkind word about him as a tutor,” said Clive Lind, chairman of the NZ Journalists Training Organisation and editorial development manager at Fairfax Media NZ.
“The students loved his passion, his commitment, just his drive. [And] if it hadn’t been for his enthusiasm, there wouldn’t be a JTO.”
Mr Tucker was invited to join Whitireia as the journalism programme leader by CEO Don Campbell in 2007 and set about transforming the journalism course to incorporate multimedia.
“Web was coming at the industry and no-one in J schools all over the world quite knew what to do,” he said. “No one else was doing anything, so Whitireia could go down the multimedia track.”
Before Mr Tucker arrived, the programme had deteriorated to the point where it had just seven students. The challenge was to rebuild Whitireia’s reputation with the media industry.
He made several other changes, including moving the journalism school campus from Porirua to Wellington, and graduation to mid-year so students had less competition in the job market.
He invited a 19-year-old UK journalism graduate, Dave Lee – who was leading global debate on the future of multimedia journalism – to come out to Whitireia to help modernise the programme.
The collaboration led to Whitireia launching the country’s first journalism school news website, NewsWire.
The revamped course launched in June, 2008, and it now has the second largest enrolment after AUT University in Auckland.
Former Whitireia pupil Tessa Johnstone – now at the Dominion Post – says Mr Tucker had very high expectations of students, “and a genuine belief that we could be great journalists, doing everything he could to draw out our potential and prepare us for what was to come”.
Mr Tucker’s long and diverse career began on the Taranaki Herald in 1965 and has included working as a newspaper journalist, chief reporter, news editor, picture editor, and editorial manager, and winning six national journalism awards.
In 1983, after a stint as news editor for NZ Woman’s Weekly, he took the position of deputy editor and then editor of the Auckland Star, and then in 1986 became founding editor of the Sunday Star (now the Sunday Star-Times).
Mr Tucker’s first foray into journalism education was in 1987, when he became head of journalism at AUT (then Auckland Technical Institute) where he helped develop New Zealand’s first news media undergraduate degree.
“He was greatly respected by his students and his colleagues at AUT, and was highly regarded within the industry,” says Allan Lee, senior lecturer AUT.
“Jim always wanted the best opportunities for his students, and he stood up for them in the same way he has stood up for journalism throughout his career.”
When Mr Tucker felt like his work there was done he moved on to become the head of journalism at Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki in New Plymouth for six years, after which he joined the Sunday Star-Times as acting chief reporter for six months, and then went to the NZJTO.
The JTO’s current executive director, Mike Fletcher, said Mr Tucker was at the organisation for three years and set it on a modern path.
Mr Tucker holds a Master of Arts degree in Communication Studies, specialising in ethics, and has written two journalism textbooks, Kiwi Journalist (1991) and Intro – A Beginner’s Guide to Journalism (1999).
“He’s mentored scores of journalists, either on newspapers or in journalism schools, and will have played a crucial part in the development of many careers,” says Rick Neville, former chief operating officer at APN Media, now head of the Newspaper Publishers’ Association.
“Now he’s going back to New Plymouth, where I’m sure his involvement in journalism will continue for many years to come. I wish him the very best.”
Mr Tucker will be joining his brother, photographer Rob Tucker, at Tucker Media Ltd as a writer, editor, subeditor for various books and online projects.