I’ve just finished the third week of my Journalism Masters at Kingston University and I can honestly say I’m having a brilliant time. It’s intense and busy, but the people – students and lecturers alike – are all wonderful and we very quickly became a tight bunch; the constant stream of interesting material and enthusiasm also makes every hard moment worth it. I thought I’d write something about what we’ve been doing so far and what anyone in the future may be able to expect.
The First Week
Our first week was slightly different to the others, in that it was a packed 10-4 schedule every day and we started pushing the Journalism In Context: Law, Ethics And The Industry module, with introductions to the print versus digital debate and ethics questions posed. Around these lectures, we had a very short time frame in which to work towards our first assessment, a presentation in groups of three on the Thursday in which we spoke and interacted with the group on a topic relevant to the industry. This proved to be a very interesting day with many different debates started, although everyone was starting to flag by about half past two!
We also started thinking about the Hands On Journalism module on the Tuesday afternoon, when we went onto the streets of Kingston in small groups with the aim of finding a news story to pitch. Needless to say, this induced some mild panic, especially as many of us still didn’t know the area at all and so didn’t have a clue where to go, but everyone came back with a story; my group was particularly pleased with ours, as we’d ventured into the Council and learnt about an ongoing consultation regarding alcohol restrictions in Kingston. Others varied from shoplifting cases to the road closures surrounding the town’s “fatberg” sewage works.
On the Friday of this week, we finished off with a shorthand bootcamp, when we started learning the basics quite intensively. Luckily, there was an “in it together” feel and our lecturer Sue is hilarious and lovely, so the day didn’t feel too hard going.
As our course is NCTJ accredited, we take their exams as well as doing MA coursework, and one of these (and, scarily, the first) is law. So far we’ve worked on defamation and the defences against being sued for it, which is actually a lot more interesting than it sounds, especially when you consider it in terms of real life case studies that are often quite eccentric.
So- how am I actually finding shorthand? Not as bad as I’d anticipated! I already realise that you absolutely get out of it what you’ve put into it, which is why I’ve tried to do a fair amount each day. That’s the main reason I dislike driving for my commute at the moment, as I can’t use dead travel time to practice! Sue is very good at giving us certain things to learn and then dictating them in the next lesson at different speeds; on Thursday I even managed every word at 100wpm for 30 seconds, which I was very chuffed with; it’s a long way from doing it for real still, but it shows how quickly progress can be made! Hopefully I’ll manage to keep this up even when everything else gets busier…
Hands On Journalism
For this module, we’re working on our website the Kingston Courier and will be taking it very seriously indeed. We have had job appointments (yours truly is the new Arts & Entertainments Editor!) and this week began pitching and allocating articles and getting everything going, even though the website isn’t quite ready yet. We’re very keen!
Journalism And Power
This is basically a fancy name for what we need to know for the NCTJ’s public affairs exam, where we have to learn everything that a journalist might need to know about both local and national government. I’ve always been pretty clueless regarding politics before, but things here are already starting to slot into place. The way our lectures are structured, we even get to watch some of the Prime Minister’s Questions!
Obviously every journalist needs to know about how to write a basic news story, and we’re working with Dan Townsend, the Daily Express’ News Editor (he’s also our Law lecturer) to do this the best we can. It’s harder than you might initially think to get what is sometimes a lot of essential information into a certain amount of words and usually in a certain order, but I believe that we all got a lot from the three hour lecture we’ve had so far, so hopefully the exam in November won’t be too intimidating.
Specialist Module: Arts & Entertainment
For our specialism, we had the choice between features, business, sport and arts & entertainment, but my preference was obvious. Despite some initial timetable problems, this is is a really fun and informative module that I’m getting a lot out of already (and it’s nice to be the one who knows all the answers for a change!)
We’ve even had Sir Trevor McDonald visit which was truly inspirational and witty, even though there were no journalism questions asked and no journalism students doing the asking; it’s good that Sir Trevor was able to speak to everyone equally motivationally, but it might have been nice to hear his take on his particular industry just a little. Other than that, it’s usually to the pub!