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Former BBC News Online managing editor appointed director of journalism at University of Essex

Former BBC News Online managing editor Tim Fenton has been appointed director of journalism at the University of Essex.

Fenton began his career at a freelance agency covering Suffolk and North Essex for regional and national print and broadcast media before joining the BBC, where he worked for 19 years.

He joined the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at Essex in 2016 as a journalism lecturer and will lead the subject from September.

Fenton said: “I want to develop students who can tell important, honest stories about the world in a compelling way.

“Jonathan [Baker, founding professor of journalism] has laid some fabulous foundations. The course is still developing but going in absolutely the right direction.

“Journalism has been through a very big change with the impact of digital technology. Jonathan and I witnessed that close hand and that has helped us create a course fit for journalism as it is now.”

Fenton was part of the BBC Essex start-up team in 1986, first as a Colchester reporter and then as a news producer in Chelmsford, before moving to BBC Westminster as a political correspondent.

He then moved to BBC News Online and worked as an output editor before becoming managing editor for five years until 2005.

After taking a year off to travel with his family, Fenton returned to work in various consultancy and interim roles for the BBC, and worked as general manager of travel news website gapyear.com for two years.

He continues to work for the BBC on election reporting, and with organisations including the United Nations and the Foreign Office to improve the standard of parliamentary reporting in developing democracies around the world.

He first taught journalism at New York Univesrity and has co-developed a Journalism MA for the University of Suffolk and co-written the original outline for the Multimedia Journalism BA at the University of Essex.

Fenton said he was inspired to go into teaching by his time spent building a new online editorial team at BBC News, when he recruited more than 100 journalists during its expansion.

He said: “I saw a lot of people coming into the profession and developed some fairly firm ideas about the sort of skills they would need to prosper.

“Ten years ago, journalism teaching was still locked into separate silos – print, television, and so on. Some still is. But the important thing is finding and telling the story. Nowadays the platform comes second.”

Dr Elizabeth Kuti, head of the literature department, said: “We’re thrilled that Tim is moving into this position, and will be at the helm taking journalism at Essex into the next stage of its development.

“Tim’s got such a wealth of professional experience as a practising journalist himself, but he is also a really great communicator with students, and someone with a passion for education.

“He is really interested in journalism not only as a great career path, but also as a university discipline – a way of learning and thinking about the world, and how we interpret it. It’s a very exciting development.”

Picture: University of Essex

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