Paula Hearsum lectures and researches in media studies with specialisms in popular music and journalism.
Paula worked as a music journalist and continues to write for the wider press She maintains a relationship between academia and media practice, developing innovative industry-relevant courses and national online educational resources.
Her research has focussed on the mediation of popular musicians' deaths as way to consider dominant social discourses and narratives.
Dr Paula Hearsum lectures in Media at the University of Brighton specialising in Popular Music and Journalism across four courses: Media Studies BA (Hons), Media, Industry and Innovation BA (Hons), Environment and Media Studies BA (Hons) as well as on Digital Media, Culture and Society MA. She is currently the Academic Programme Leader in Media and Creative Industries.
As a practitioner and academic, Paula believes that media is something you do as well as think about. Her professional background includes a decade as a music journalist before moving into new media as an Editor and consultant appearing on TV, radio as well as many public speaking engagements. Having launched the UK's first and leading student community website, studentUK, in 1997, Hearsum went on to work for a variety of companies including BBC, Channel 4 and the Department Children, Schools & Families. She was a regular judge for the Guardian Student Media Awards and has run workshops on new media journalism for industry professionals. She has written for many magazines and websites on music as well having worked as an editorial web consultant specialising in education. Hearsum’s journalistic career includes contributions in the following magazines and newspapers: Vox (Staff Writer), NME, The Times, Red, Everywoman (Music Editor), 1015 (The Times supplement), Sounds, The Mac, Home Entertainment, Enjoy, Leeds Other Paper, Practical Parenting and Juno. She has also published several pieces on parenting.
Paula has a degree in Communication & Cultural Studies with Public Media BA (Hons) Trinity & All Saints, 1989 and Women’s Studies (MA) University of Westminster, 1995. She completed her PhD at the University of Brighton in 2016 focusing on the media representation of the deaths of popular musicians. She is a member of MeCCSA (Media, Communication & Cultural Association), the NUJ, the Media and Communication Research Group, University of Brighton and the International Association for the Study of Popular Music.
Paula has previously lectured at London Metropolitan University, Trinity & All Saints, Leeds, University of Westminster and the University of East London. She maintains and very much enjoys a relationship between academia and media practice through both streams of work and is continually inspired by her colleagues and students through her work at the University of Brighton.
Paula Hearsum’s main focus of research is the examination of the mediation of popular musician’s deaths as way to consider dominant social discourses and narratives. The legal, professional and ethical rules around writing about death are often broken when discussing popular musicians as a group and Paula’s research uses critical discourse analysis to demonstrate in what ways media institutions and the journalists as cultural intermediaries perform the roles of both reflecting and shaping social values.
Her practitioner background as a music journalist combines with her academic disciplines in Media Studies, Popular Music Studies and Journalism Studies within this body of work, which includes published research in intersecting areas within this work such as obituary journalism, gender debates and Death studies.
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (Maya Angelou)
My aim is to bring to my students my two decades of combined experience of media practice and teaching experience with Angelou’s ethos at its heart.
Because the students I work with are as diverse as the music we listen to, I encourage them to acknowledge their own identities, knowledge and interests as equally as being open to the new. This is an explicitly collaborative process and they gain much from the learning experience by working with different people, picking new topics or taking new approaches. My modules are often taken as electives by study abroad students, which is as enriching for the core cohort as it is for me, and we enjoy grappling with the discipline’s oldest question of whether music as a 'universal language'.
Students submit a music track connected to their pre-lecture readings. I collate the playlist on Spotify and circulate the link to the group to widen their musical references. Listening, sometimes with videos, plays a key part of the lecture and the students' resultant presentations, and we discuss how those experiences differ. We listen, look, read, talk and experience music – individually, as small groups, large groups – offline and online.
Students are encouraged to move from passive listening to being able to discuss it with the academic tools at our disposal enabling them to write about it. To do this effectively the teaching module is written as an interconnected narrative with themes threaded throughout which come together as a coherent whole. It provides space for individual connectivity so that students can, not only intimately relate to particular music, but also kindle academic aspirations to test out their research. The creation of space in the module to do this is imperative.
My research informs my teaching and my teaching informs my research at all levels and across all modules with my current PhD by Publication focus on the representation of the deaths of popular musicians. This was inspired by supervision of a graduate who had taken this area as a topic, which in turn was inspired by my practice, having written about the deaths of popular musicians in class. My published material is used in the syllabus when considering best practice, improving practices and media ethics. Most rewardingly of all, it feeds forward to the next generation of media practitioners.
Hearsum, Paula (2015) Three faces of musical motherhood in death: Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston and Donna Summer In: Strong, C. and Lebrun, B., eds. Death and the Rock Star. Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series . Ashgate Publishing, Abingdon, pp. 119-133. ISBN 9781472430915
Hearsum, Paula and Inglis, Ian (2013) The Emancipation of Music Video: YouTube and the Cultural Politics of Supply and Demand In: Gorbman, Claudia, Richardson, John and Vernallis, Carol, eds. Oxford Handbook of Audiovisual Aesthetics. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 483-500. ISBN 9780199733866
Hearsum, Paula (2013) Zappa and mortality: the mediation of Zappa’s death In: Carr, Paul, ed. Frank Zappa & the And. Ashgate popular and folk music series . Ashgate, Farnham, UK, pp. 201-216. ISBN 9781409433378
Hearsum, Paula (2012) 27 Forever: Kristen Pfaff and the coverage of death as the re-presentation of a gendered musical life In: Jennings, Ros and Gardner, Abigail, eds. 'Rock on': women, ageing and popular music. Ashgate popular and folk music series . Ashgate, Farnham, UK, pp. 103-122. ISBN 9781409428411
Hearsum, Paula (2012) Three faces of motherhood in death: Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston & Donna Summer In: IASPM - Imagining Communities Musically: Putting Popular Music in its Place, University of Salford, 5-7 September 2012.
Hearsum, Paula (2012) The cultural economy of death: advertising and popular music In: Wharton, Chris, ed. Advertising as culture. Intellect, Bristol, UK, pp. 109-126. ISBN 9781841506142
Hearsum, Paula (2012) Re-imagining Richey: celebrity disappearance, Manic Street Preacher fandom and Ben Meyer's 'Richard' In: Crossroads, Sorbonne Nouvelle University, 2-6 July 2012.
Hearsum, Paula (2012) Music journalism In: Turner, Barry and Orange, Richard, eds. Specialist journalism. Routledge, London, pp. 107-123. ISBN 9780415582858
Hearsum, Paula (2012) A musical matter of life and death: the morality of mortality and the coverage of Amy Winehouse's death in the UK press Mortality, 17 (2). pp. 182-199. ISSN 1357-6275
Hearsum, Paula (2010) A matter of life and death: the re-presentation of a musician’s suicide through the lens of the obituary In: Joint BSA Death, Dying and Bereavement Study Group and BSA Media Study Group Event: Death and the Media, British Sociological Association, London, 15 November, 2011.
Hearsum, Paula (2010) Mediating Music Journalism: Experience in Academia and Academia in Practice In: International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) Biennial Conference Cardiff, UK: Experience, Engagement, Meaning, Cardiff University.
Hearsum, Paula and Inglis, Ian (2010) When two worlds collide Celebrity Studies, 1 (2). pp. 239-241. ISSN 1939-2397
Hearsum, Paula (2010) A matter of life and death: the representation of a musician's death through the lens of the obituary In: Death Day Conference, University of Winchester, 15 May 2010.