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Between two different traditions: the first Schools of Journalism in Spain (1926-1958)

Carlos Barrera

Last modified: 2010-07-05


The birth and development of the first Schools of Journalism in Spain is linked to the current existing trends in Europe and North America both prior and after the Second World War. Until the recognition of these studies by the official legislation in 1971, there were three different achievements: the School of Journalism of El Debate (1926-1936), the Official School of Journalism (1941-1975) and the Institute of Journalism at the University of Navarra (1958). Only this latter specially characterized by its university nature unlike the former attempts, survived. A historical description of these three highlights (the influences that they received, the limitations of any sort that they had, etc.) will help us understand the reasons of this success.

El Debate, a Catholic newspaper founded in 1910, was the first institution that understood the necessity of providing a specific training to the future journalists through a specialized school. As the newspaper was growing in circulation and prestige, his editor, Ángel Herrera, sent to one of his most reliable collaborators, the priest Manuel Graña, to the United States to gather experiences from various journalism schools. Once returned to Spain, the first School of Journalism was created in 1926, with clear influences from the American schools in terms of internal organization and syllabus. Practical skills of news writing, reporting, interviewing, etc. were dominant although some cultural subjects also were taught. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 obliged to close down the school.

The new Official School of Journalism launched in 1941, just two years after the end of the Civil War, was basically inspired by the previous School of El Debate in aspects regarding the subjects and syllabus. But differently from that, it showed a high degree of politicization as it depended on the Ministry of Propaganda. In fact it was conceived as an instrument of restricting access to the profession in favor of those more identified with the new dictatorial regime. With the passing of time, the control accesses turned softer. It was the only way to obtain the license card to work as a journalist.

The creation of the Institute of Journalism at the Church-run University of Navarra in 1958 signified a step forward in the process of journalism’s professionalization. It combined the two traditions existing at that time: the American model that emphasized the practical skills and the European tradition of various university departments devoted to the press and other media as objects of study but hardly oriented to the formation of future practitioners. A third element present in this new initiative was a high number of subjects related to the humanities as a necessary background for a journalist.

These different projects, and specially the university-centered program offered in Navarra, led to shape the new university schools of journalism, officially set up in 1971, which are the backbone of the current Spanish system for journalists’ training.

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