MEDIA INTERNATIONAL AUSTRALIA
Media International Australia (MIA) is Australia’s pre-eminent scholarly journal in mass communication. In 2010, it was ranked A in the ERA (Excellence in Research for Australia) journal rankings. It has appeared quarterly since it began in July 1976 as Media Information Australia.
That first edition apologetically advised individual subscribers they would have to pay an annual charge of $10 for the four issues; in 2014, it was $125 for Australian residents. But it is not only price inflation that separates the contemporary journal from the original.
In 1976, formal journal rankings were not on the scholarly horizon. But even by the less formal standards then prevailing, MIA was a very individual publication. It reflected the aspirations and intellectual reach of its founding editor, Henry Mayer (1919–91). Mayer had already been the editor of Politics (subsequently the Australian Journal of Political Science), the leading Australian political studies journal, and was the editor of one of the liveliest and most widely used Australian politics textbooks. Until 1975 he had had a weekly column, ‘Speaking Freely’, in the Australian.
The new journal, to which he devoted his indefatigable energy, was funded by the Australian Film and Television School (subsequently the Australian Film Television and Radio School) at a time when media teaching and research were still in their infancy. The school’s director, Julie James Bailey, shared Henry Mayer’s vision of a journal that would act as a bridge between media scholars, media practitioners and interested lay people. It sought to create a space rarely found in academic journals.
MIA shared information about tertiary courses and research projects, and often carried articles and speeches by industry figures, public servants and politicians. In a pre-internet, pre-digital age, the Media Briefs section—a compilation of media-related items in the news—helped readers keep in touch with contemporary controversies. The editor’s pluralism was particularly manifested in the regular forums on current issues, where at their best three or four people with contrasting views teased out the different dimensions of a debate.
MIA’s intellectual and scholarly qualities were manifested in the range of articles by mostly, though not exclusively, Australian researchers. In the midst of summarising recent research, Mayer would often launch into an acute and erudite analysis of its theoretical problems and the strengths and weaknesses of its genre. In short, he produced a journal of considerable vibrancy and intellectual energy, adding scholarly depth to public issues and a contemporary edge to academic scholarship.
After Mayer’s death, six co-editors (Stuart Cunningham, Murray Goot, Elizabeth (Liz) Jacka, John Sinclair, Rodney Tiffen and Peter White) replaced him, introducing a number of changes, including themed issues—usually involving guest co-editors. Over time, the forces of academic evolution came to the fore. The journal had only instituted a formal refereeing process at the end of the 1980s. (Before then, articles had to pass through the demanding process of satisfying the editor.) Industry input declined, while scholarly refereeing became more stringent. MIA’s managing editor, Meredith Quinn, improved the journal’s production standards, and it was renamed Media International Australia in 1995.
Three years later, the journal passed first to Griffith University, where it was merged with Culture and Policy to become Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy—the last part of the name was dropped in 2007) and became one of two journals distributed to members of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association. Edited by Gillian Swanson (1998), Graeme Turner (1998–2002) and Helen Wilson (2002–06), MIA moved in 2004 to the University of Queensland. Gerard Goggin became editor in 2006 and Sue Turnbull took over in 2010. In 2007, MIA was selected for coverage in Thomson’s Social Sciences Citation Index. A special commemorative 150th issue was published in February 2014.
REFs: ‘Remembering Henry Mayer’, MIA, 61 (1991); R. Tiffen (ed.), Mayer on the Media (1994).
MURRAY GOOT and RODNEY TIFFEN