Frank Shennan, Programme Leader in Journalism and Journalism and Media
Winner of three UK press awards, former Scottish Business Editor of the Sunday Times and sub-editor at the Daily Mirror, an active journalist who still writes for some of the most prestigious British media outlets – and a Senior Lecturer in Journalism. This is Frank Shennan, who teaches Journalism Foundations, Journalism Fieldwork and Contemporary Journalism at Middlesex University.
Why did you think journalism is important?
There is a line in Tom Stoppard’s play about journalism, Night and Day, where one of his characters says: “No matter how imperfect things are, if you've got a free press everything is correctable, and without it everything is concealable.”
Good journalism makes society work better. Yes, bad news can be depressing and frightening, but in a healthy society it is often the first step to putting things right. And if there is a free press, bad journalism can be corrected too.
Why did you become a journalist?
Because I’m nosey. I’m curious about everything. Many children are told off by their parents for asking too many questions, usually “But why?” That’s wrong. You must keep asking questions. Always ask why.
Being a journalist is like having permanent permission to ask questions. I can pick up the phone to anyone in the world and ask them questions. They may not answer my questions but they rarely question my right to ask.
Which job in the media industry did you find most interesting/fulfilling?
As a reporter I loved breaking stories, revealing things that people did not know before: how a specialist group of police and accountants investigated terrorist finances in Northern Ireland, how opposing terrorist groups co-operated in a stolen cars racket, details of attempted football club takeovers.
I also loved getting into places most people could not go: taking part in a Royal Air Force combat survival course while still a trainee journalist, joining Royal Marines Reserves on an amphibious landing at midnight, and spending a week on a Royal Navy nuclear submarine during a training exercise which involved sleeping next to a 45ft-long torpedo.
What do you want your journalism students to know when they graduate?
I want them to have the essential skills of journalism and media generally, and to have the knowledge and understanding of where journalism belongs in the world. But most of all I want them to have the drive and confidence to create and shape their own careers, whether they are working for a major news broadcaster, working for themselves or starting their own media business. I want them to be able to take control of their lives.
What do you do on weekends?
I go to the theatre, I go out to dinner, meet friends for drinks… and, of course, I read the Sunday newspapers.