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McNae’s co-author slams branding of young journalists as ‘snowflakes’

Mark Hanna 1The co-author of McNae’s has blasted the characterisation of recent generations of journalists as “snowflakes” after bowing out from full-time teaching.

Mark Hanna has paid tribute to the students he has taught, and criticised their detractors, after announcing his retirement from the University of Sheffield after 24 years with its journalism department.

Mark, pictured, left the university on 31 August but will continue his work editing McNae’s Essential Law for Journalist and chairing the National Council for the Training of Journalists’ media law examinations board.

During his time at Sheffield, he taught media ethics and court reporting, as well as a module he devised called ‘Introduction to Investigations’ – believed to be the first to require university students to make Freedom of Information requests as part of their assessment.

Projects undertaken by students as part of the module included discovering who was running some of Sheffield’s brothels, while another team smuggled dozens of banned items such as scissors and liquid sprays past the security checkpoint at a courthouse.

Mark has now been named an emeritus fellow of the department, which means he will continue to have a formal affiliation with the university in retirement.

Reflecting on his time at there, Mark said it felt “good to have helped build the department’s good reputation”.

He told HTFP: “Many of our students go into careers other than journalism, and what we have taught seems to serve them all well. A lot of what we do is to give them confidence to write, probe and to trust in their own ideas.

“I don’t think the recent generations are ‘snowflakes’. In some ways growing up has been tougher for them, with all the pressures of social media. Many of them want to change the world, and I hope they do.

“Some friends of long standing are leaving or retiring from the department at the same time as I am – Tony Harcup, Katie Stewart, our shorthand maestro Kaye Carl, Professor Martin Conboy, and John Steel, who is off to be a professor at Derby.

“So to that extent, there is some changing of the guard, but the department has plenty of other veterans and new blood.”

Mark, 63, began his career on the Doncaster Evening Post in 1978 and also worked at the Western Daily Press and Sheffield Morning Telegraph.

He spent a year as The Observer’s Northern reporter and joined the university in 1986 from Sheffield daily The Star, where he was working on the newsdesk, having specialised in crime reporting and investigations for most of his career.

Mark has co-authored six editions of McNae’s since 2009 and has chaired the NCTJ’s media law examinations board since 2006.

He said: “I feel it is the right time to go. I want more freedom to do things outside work, including visiting the Peak District with my wife Linda.

“Sheffield University has played a big part in my life. Linda, who I met when we were at the same school, ending up at the university by her own route, and for 29 years taught in the Russian department there. Our son Rory is now a history PhD student there.

“The earliest cohorts of students I taught are now in their forties, which is a sobering reminder of how fast time passes. Since my retirement was announced, I have had some lovely messages and good wishes from ex-students on Twitter.

“The NCTJ wants me to continue on its media law examinations board and to continue with McNae’s, so I will not be dropping off a cliff into total idleness.”