My MA @cityjournalism: what I’ve learnt so far

MADAY

MA Day: The @CityJournalism class of 2014.

My first term at City is finally over. My patch portfolio is done, I’ve passed 70wmp in shorthand, drunk far too much cider and coffee, and only fallen asleep in the journalism department once.

1. Don’t underestimate the work load.

It’s called a masters course for a reason – there is a lot of work involved. The modules I did this term were: newspaper reporting and practice, newspaper production, journalism and society, media law, shorthand, public administration and online journalism.

shorthand study group

Shorthand study group. We were keen.

We put together a paper every month, had an Freedom Of Information project on the go, an online blog to maintain, shorthand to constantly practice, and a patch portfolio of news articles, court reports, interviews and a video to put together. Next term, add on entrepreneurial journalism, a specialism module and an MA project.

My part-time job is getting to be a huge stress and I’m considering quitting to spend more time on my journalism; this is the course I’ve wanted to do for years. One of my course mates was told in his interview that if he comes to City, not to bother with a job, or a relationship. While I snuff that advice on pure principle, I can definitely see why.

shorthand

Shorthand fun

It’s 9 – 5 most days, and occasionally classes and events in the evenings. All free time is spent working in the journalism department, out in our patches getting stories, or filing freelance work.

There’s only so many 18-hour days one can do before they collapse, and unless it’s on someone’s patch and would make a decent story, I’d rather not be that person.

2. You NEED to be freelancing.

If you aren’t doing it, someone else will be. My colleagues are at The Sunday Times Sport, The Sunday Times iPad edition, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Evening Standard, The ES Magazine and The Metro iPad edition, to name a few. In their spare time. Because of my job, I’ve not been doing this nearly enough, and that’s my target for next term.

While you’re at it, get some more work experience for the ridiculously long breaks we have at Christmas and Easter. No, I don’t think you can ever have enough work experience if you’re still studying, and especially if you’re learning, making contacts and getting bylines from it.

3. The contacts are fantastic.

newspapers

No idea when I’ll have time to read all these.

Every week we’ve had speakers come in to talk to us, or City has hosted speeches, workshops or talks for the journalism department. The links that they have are great, and really do set City apart from the rest.

We’ve had Heather Brooke who broke the Telegraph expenses scandal using FOIs, the BBC’s director of content and of health and safety, The Telegraph’s Deputy Editor, the Sunday Times night editor, Sue Ryan who runs the Daily Mail graduate scheme, members of the PCC, and many more. Rumour has it, we may have a certain former spin-doctor on the cards for next term. It’s great when your lecturer just happens to play tennis with them.

These are in the form of guest lectures, tutorials, Q+As and networking drinks events. There’s always a good opportunity to go and speak to them afterwards and babble at them about journalism.

4. Backstabbing and bitching do take place. It’s competitive. That’s journalism (and life).

So and so stole my story and pitched it to the Independent…

She wouldn’t have a chance of getting on that grad scheme…

He definitely stole my headline on the subbing test…

filing copy

Filed copy for Islington Now and Hackney Post. Then, pub.

Then there’s the healthy inter-course rivalry which provides endless entertainment, mainly between broadcast, magazine and newspaper. We have our own mock Twitter accounts and hashtags… #AsAJournalist. Bit immature? Maybe.

It’s not even just journalism related – we are people too, and have normal people problems. Friendships, family issues, relationships, arguments, gossip and scandal fly around constantly. I fully hold my hands up to playing a part in the “He did that with her, behind the other one’s back…” stories. Shoot me.

You have to rise above it. Of course, there is a certain amount of gossiping that will take place – you are journalists after all. Shoving 50 of us in a classroom environment for 8 hours a day along with an intense workload is going to produce a bit of conflict. It’s not important in the grand scheme of things.

5. Everyone is there for different reasons – don’t scoff them.

The other day I was in serious disbelief when a friend told me he didn’t know who Nick Davies was. Or Carl Bernstein. My heart sank a bit; why you would want to study journalism, if you aren’t interested in what they have done?

Deadlines approaching...

Deadlines approaching…

A similar thing happened when another course mate spoke about a career in publishing, to the response “Why are you doing this MA if you don’t want to be a reporter?”

Stop right there.

It is such a narrow-minded assumption to believe that everyone wants to go into journalism to break stories about corrupt public officials, save lives, report on disaster, make people think twice about their actions… basically to be all morally superior. I get a bit berated by some people on the course about my idealistic dreams of wanting to make a difference (screw you), but the truth is, that’s not what everyone is here for.

When I looked closer at the demographics of the course, it’s a real mix. We have people escaping the terrible conditions for journalists in their own countries, some who want to use the skills in the career they are already working in, some just for the qualification, some for the contacts, some just to get a job and nothing else, some who just want to write about what they enjoy, and some who want the excitement and buzz of finding out new things and watching them entertain and inform thousands of people.

And some who want to change the world.

The news process.

The news process.

I’ve learnt not to be a #journosnob; everyone has their reasons for being here and no one is to judge who is right or wrong in that.

Despite the ups and downs, coming to study here is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve got more than enough work experience on my CV, I’m making friends and contacts, building up bylines, brushing up my skills and learning new ones in one of the media capitals of the world, taught by the professionals. City is an absolute roller coaster, but I’m glad I’m on it. Roll on term two.

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1 Comment

Filed under Journalism, Universities

One response to “My MA @cityjournalism: what I’ve learnt so far

  1. Spot on – very apt summary.

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