Why Oxford is a good city to be a journalist

Do journalists in and around Oxford make the most of the wealth of information they can access in this University City, the seminars and debates they are free to attend and the presence of a stream of influential and interesting national and global characters who spend time as visiting scholars? Branch member Roger Howe does, and he wants to encourage more of us to do likewise.

Sir Thomas Bodley’s house has many mansions and in the last twelve years I have peered into most of them.

Whether looking at Alan Garner’s papers in the medieval hush of Duke Humfrey’s Library or pursuing wartime psychiatry in the basement of the Radcliffe Science Library, it seems the Bodleian Libraries have information on every subject.  Available at the time of writing for £36/year or £6/week.  An NUJ ‘professional recommendation’ should be sufficient to gain access.

Controversial changes have affected shelving arrangements in the Old Library and elsewhere.  Millions of copyright books held at Swindon must be ordered in advance.  Manuscripts will be housed at the new Weston Library when it opens next year.

The Social Sciences Library is simple and unpretentious, with books and journals covering many policy areas.  As with other University libraries it is airy and light-filled, seldom too crowded for comfort.  Passing the upstairs auditorium on 24 October 2012 led to a brief chat with former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

And my face lit up with childlike wonder when Jane Rawson of the Vere Harmsworth Library accessed John Kelly Damico’s PhD thesis on Patricia Derian via OxLIP+ and downloaded it at once when I anticipated ordering a copy by post from a shelf in the University of Mississippi.  Magic.  I clapped my virtual hands.

Jimmy Carter’s Playboy interview arrived complete with nudes and a Robert Shrum article from 1979 courtesy of world-devouring Google Books.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism www.reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk is also worth keeping an eye on.  The speakers seem to spring up at short notice: on 25 January 2013, Ed Lucas of The Economist talked about the difficulties of reporting from Russia, the courage of the intellectual opposition there and the joys of anonymity at his own publication.

The rise of Russia’s oligarchs has implications for Britain, not least for freedom of the press.  Lucas described a strange encounter in the Kremlin between Masha Gessen and President Putin.  Being a journalist, he suggested, was like being the army, you have to follow orders.  She reportedly demurred.


30 January 2013, Jane Macartney of The Times had a similar story to tell regarding the challenges of reporting from China.

The Bodleian website http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/services/admissions has recently been revamped and is fairly self-explanatory.  It would help to have a direct link from the University to the NUJ branch website listing visiting scholars and notables available for interview.


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