With lots of new things learnt, experienced and tried, our first (almost) three months of studying MA Journalism has come to a close. Here’s my summing up:
Everyone seems to feel very differently about shorthand – although everyone loves our lovely and hilarious teacher, Sue. Personally, I do actually enjoy it, which definitely helps in the learning process. I passed the 60wpm exam with 100% and took both 80 and 100wpm yesterday, although I’ll have to put that out of my mind until January 3rd now! If I can get to 120wpm by April I’ll be over the moon.
We also studied for the NCTJ’s Essential Media Law exam which we took towards the end of November and, though it beats me how, I managed to come at the top of the class with 89%. Considering I’d never really done anything on this subject before, I found the law really interesting, especially as real life examples kept coming into the news this term – most notably perhaps with Peach Geldof’s contempt tweet.
I’ve been the arts and entertainment editor for our website, the Kingston Courier, which has had its ups and downs but I’ve loved it. I’ve been to see lots of shows, spoken to some lovely local performers and also found a few news stories about things like free schools and parking. I don’t really want to give my arts section up but we all swap round next term and we’ll also be producing a paper pullout for a newspaper which sounds like a fun project.
The material for the NCTJ Public Affairs exam has been long and intense, with lots more still to go, which is one thing I’m not really looking forward to next term…
My specialist module is arts and entertainment which I enjoy and feel good at, although I still need to finish my portfolio due in January. Next term we either create a specialist website or newspaper/magazine spread which I’m excited to try.
We’ve gone into court and into a council meeting to get used to how these things work as we’ll have to go to them at some point. Court was okay but the council meeting was pretty boring, although at least I got to practise shorthand in both.
We took the NCTJ Reporting exam last Monday and it could have gone well – the big news story was about a guy who chased down thieves and then got told off for keeping contact with the police on his phone whilst driving, which was at least an interesting one to write – but it’s the one that it’s basically impossible to predict as it’s marked so harshly.
As you can tell, we’ve been busy – and there are still the odd other things that I didn’t mention such as lunchtime lectures, news quizzes and interview practice – but I don’t get long for a break.
This Christmas, I’m doing three weeks of work experience, one week at the Surrey Comet and its newspaper group and two at the Isle of Wight County Press. It’s a bit nerveracking but exciting and hopefully I’ll have lots to talk about afterwards.
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!
On Thursday October 3rd, Sir Trevor McDonald came to Kingston University for an “An Audience With…” lecture, an event organised by the university’s careers service, KU Talent.
The room was packed out and everyone was extremely patient when we discovered Sir Trevor was stuck in Kingston traffic and was eventually to be half an hour late; some people are worth waiting for. Unfortunately the talk was also blighted by an uncooperative microphone that kept cutting in and out, which mostly affected those in the back half of the room, but Sir Trevor’s actual words (if you could hear them) were a delight to listen to, being both inspirational and funny.
(Plight as in predicament, not difficulty, obviously!)
Summer term: the time when everyone from age 15/16 to whenever they leave education (equalling around 6 years on average for university-goers) has to ignore whatever sun we in the UK get and revise for exams. Many sunny days are missed from forcing ourselves to stay cooped up in our rooms or in the library, and there is a period of a few weeks when many become almost totally antisocial. We get used to it, but it always inspires an annual moaning period nonetheless.
However, I chose a BA Music course in which I have no exams whatsoever! (I’ve done some practical and theory exams over the last couple of years, but they’re external). I’ve still had work to do in the last two summers though, so I have still been busy either composing or essay writing in a short space of time. But this year is different: I am doing a recital on the 29th of May and nothing else this term. I have to play my clarinet for half an hour to finish my degree.
At the beginning of this term (w/c 22 May), a new system was trialled in the University of York library wherein a note was left on any items unattended with a threat that, from the 29th, these items could be moved to the main library desk in order to free up seats if left for 30 minutes or more. The idea was sound, as many people hog their favourite seats for an entire day so they can come and go as they please, especially in the build up to exam season, but many were outraged that library staff could just walk around move people’s belongings, particularly as there were reports of notes being left when people made quick trips to the toilets or the vending machine.
The library’s Spotted Facebook page and also student media sites were the main place where this outrage was vented, as well as generally being very topical around campus for a week or two. This led to the extension of the 30 minute period to an hour alongside the also previously implemented “snitch line”, by which any library user can text a number if they’re being “disturbed”. Many are now suggesting that people just deal with these problems themselves instead of getting an adult involved- this isn’t school, after all- but at least it shows the library is finally making a commitment to making itself equally accessible to all during exam season, from the loud-mouthed to the shy.
Around exam season (and, indeed, at many other times of year such as dissertation deadlines) our university library is packed. Sometimes I think it genuinely and foolishly isn’t big enough. However, there is always a massive furore, even prompting the Twitter account @libraryseats to be created to inform people of how busy the library is and what areas are free.
However, I usually view this library panic from the outside. Why, I hear you ask. Don’t you have work to do too? That I do, but I much prefer working from home.
March 17th: the day Ireland goes green (even more so than usual) with pride.
As my first time ever in Ireland, it was quite exciting to have my first full day there as St Patrick’s Day, and I expected it to be a crazy, happy time- boy, was I right!
We started the day with the St Patrick’s Day parades at about 11am with a prime spot on the fence in O’Connell Street. As 2013 is the year of The Gathering, Ireland’s opening of arms to friends and family from around the world, there were people from an amazing number of countries both in the crowd and the parades- with over 700 million people worldwide claiming Irish ancestry, this is hardly surprising! We expected locals to be at least a little unfriendly to so many intruders in their city covered in facepaint, flags and hats, but it seemed like the spirit was the more the merrier!
The People’s Parade was a jubilant mixture of marching bands (including one made entirely of accordions + drums!) and people dancing down the street, in or out of costume. The essential thing was that everyone had something in common. The main parade was slightly more serious, with bands belonging to fire brigades and police departments, as well as some very impressive American school bands (I’ve always been in awe of some of their moves!), alternating with the likes of the mayors of Dublin towns around the world as well as the Dublin, Nicky from Westlife and various armed forces.
Walking home from the library at midnight one night this week, I was struck by how paranoid both I, and a nearby girl, were. I left the library very close behind her and before too long she’d turned round twice to check who was behind her; I shortly overtook her, wherein it became my turn to keep looking over my shoulder. I passed only one man one the way home, and it is a well-lit, fairly busy road the whole way home, so why this natural reaction?
Perhaps it’s because I’m used to being either with my boyfriend or on my bike, or because I’m from a small island instead of a city, or simply because there are as many horror stories in the news as ever. Whatever it is, I wouldn’t consider myself as being scared, as I feel like I live in a safe city, but this feels like an unavoidable and all too common reaction to being out after dark.
Recently, there have been lots of debates regarding “sexism”, “feminism” and “offensive” topics. I put these in inverted commas not because I disregard sexism or feminism, but because the definition and reaction of each seems to be somewhat exaggerated and distorted in certain circles at the moment. Feminists are clinging on to anything that they are slightly unsure of or offended by, when being offended is not a human right and it is essentially one person’s opinion. Opinions are by definition subjective, so this cannot be the basis for anything unless democratically everyone agrees. Equally, sexism is obviously awful but there are a minority of things written on such websites as TrueLad that are sexually offensive, but there is no real reason for campaigning against the entire website for the occasional misjudgement.
Similarly, the Spotted Facebook pages for universities around the country allow users to anonymously post messages aimed towards people seen in their libraries or around campus. These are often compliments or humorous jibes, but sometimes cross into more sexual comments that some women take offense with. In York, this caused a huge fuss, with its owners ultimately shutting down the site because they didn’t have time for the moderation that was called for. As far as I’m aware, no other university has had this problem, which begs the question as to whether there are groups at York that do take things more seriously. The Overheard York Twitter account is a similar case, except that moderation was agreed to and the situation was dealt with in a calmer manner in order to keep an amusing profile running without the sporadically offensive quotes featured as well.