The University of Oxford has introduced the role of professor of political communications for the first time in its over 900 years of existence, it was announced on 12 September.
Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, director of research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, will be taking on the task, splitting his time between conducting research, engaging with the journalistic profession, and teaching in the Department of Politics and International Relations as well as the Blavatnik School of Government.
Nielsen told Journalism.co.uk the introduction of this role at Oxford represented a "clear recognition of what a revolutionary moment this is for the media", and the acknowledgement of the need for those who might one day work as civil servants, policy makers and elected officials to understand the day-to-day workings of political media.
"Teaching in this environment, I think that a lot of the students who come here who are not themselves journalists and haven’t worked as journalists both have very high expectations of what journalists ought to do but also feel quite strongly that journalists don’t do these things, and they are critical of how journalism is practised these days."
Part of his role will be dedicated to explaining to students the environment media outlets operate in today, pointing to the staff numbers and resources media organisations have in comparison to the better resourced corporate communications teams.
He added that it is not uncommon for students to be under the impression that a single newspaper could have thousands of journalists on staff.
Nielsen will continue his role as director of research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and as a research fellow at Green Templeton College.
"It’s important that my work here is also about helping others to understand journalism better," he said, explaining that his engagement work extends not only to media leaders but also to those in the fields of computer science, engineering or policy making.
Just as there are journalists who believe there are opportunities for development at the intersection of media and technology, Nielsen hopes to reach those with the same mindset from a computer science or engineering background.
The "role that they play in society can be improved" through a better understanding of the media landscape and the possibilities for collaboration.
Similarly, Nielsen explained the relationship between political figures and journalists has historically been "very adversarial", and "making sure these different communities can understand each other" will continue to be an important element of his role at Oxford.
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