News production culture in Jamaica: a Q&A with Vashan Brown

Vashan Brown is a PhD candidate in the Media and Communications Department 

Journalists play a key role in newsrooms, and by understanding how they see themselves and the profession – we will be able to assess the ideologies and discourses that shape their work.
Vashan Brown 747 x 560
Vashan Brown 

What are you currently researching?

I am currently researching the structural and ideological forces and processes that shape news production culture in Jamaica. Via semi-structured interviews with both current and former journalists, I am particularly interested in how these actors understand and discursively represent the conditions and politics of their work and industry, and their place within it. I am also interested in how the country’s postcolonial history shapes the reporting of key political and economic issues.

Why did you choose this area of study?

I have worked as a journalist in Jamaica for more than a decade. During that period, I served as one of the lead anchors for the Business News segment of the Prime Time Hour. One day, just before the newscast, I sat down to read through the scripts for the package.

On that specific day, I had just returned from visiting farmers in rural Jamaica for a documentary I was producing on the dangers of stealing crops and livestock. I had listened as they spoke passionately about how their small farms were suffering. They had invested money to plant crops and rear animals, but they were being stolen by thieves. This has resulted in huge financial hardship for the farmers who, in some instances, have not been able to take care of their families.

As this played out in my mind, it led me to think about the driving forces behind the stories that make the business news section of print and broadcast media. I asked myself: why do most of these stories focus on big corporations? It was at this point that I became interested in investigating whether journalists constantly reflect on the economic, cultural, and social forces that shape news decisions. 

How will your research have a wider impact on society? Can you give some real-world examples of the impact your research will have?

My research will help us to understand the role of colonialism/history in shaping the way that news is produced in so called postcolonial societies. Additionally, journalists play a key role in newsrooms, and by understanding how they see themselves and the profession – we will be able to assess the ideologies and discourses that shape their work. Hopefully, in the end, the research will help journalists to critically reflect on the news decisions they make and the implications for the communities and people they report on in Black majority countries like Jamaica.

What have been the highlights of your research work so far?

The highlight of my research journey so far has been the strong bond that I have developed with my supervisors. If I am struggling, I know that I can call on them to give me support. They also constantly check in to ensure that I am taking care of mental health and wellbeing. Additionally, another highlight is passing my upgrade viva exam which allowed me to move from an MPhil Student to a PhD Candidate.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

I was a journalist for 11 years, and so the transition to academia was challenging in the first few months. It was particularly hard to write my theory chapter because the style used in journalism is very different from academia. However, I spent the time to read theory carefully until I was able to produce something that I was comfortable with.

What advice would you give to prospective students on the most effective way to approach research and keep stress levels down?

It is important to do other activities in addition to your research. For me, teaching undergraduates at LSE has been rewarding. It allowed me to read literature not directly related to my own research.

I would also encourage prospective students to travel outside of the UK from time to time. When I travel to tropical islands especially during the London winters, I feel refreshed when I return.  

In a few words, what is the best thing about studying at LSE?

The best thing about studying at LSE is the access that you get to scholars who are the brightest minds in the social sciences.