What's it like to study... Journalism

Journalism's a hard slog, but worthwhile if you're passionate enough, says Sophie Warnes. She graduated with a BA in multimedia journalism from Bournemouth University in 2011

My route to Bournemouth, where I studied journalism, was a difficult one. I was originally at a rival London-based university studying the same degree, but I ended up dropping out due to illness. I worked for six months, then studied a foundation diploma in film, before eventually ending up with my first degree, five years after leaving sixth form.

One of the things that initially drew me to the course and that I still think is particularly important, is the multimedia aspect. Throughout the three years of the course, students are expected to learn and build on a variety of skills that are necessary for the different mediums of newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and online. This means that not only will you be writing pieces for print and online, but also writing, producing, presenting and editing film and radio packages to industry standard using industry equipment - from fully-equipped TV studios to software like Final Cut or Adobe Audition.

You’re expected to be technically adept - good at carrying equipment, setting up tripods and cameras - and of course packing them up again! – and have a good visual eye in order to be able to lay out your work in Adobe InDesign. You also need to be good at getting the most from people during interviews, and, importantly, you need to be able to adapt your writing and how you report the story, to whichever medium you use.

If you’re seriously looking at going into journalism, I would recommend going for a course that encompasses NCTJ exams. NCTJs are the certificates that speak volumes in the industry, and without them, your opportunities post-graduation are limited. It’s much easier to study it alongside your degree and in a university than it is to do later on alongside your working week.

If your course offers NCTJ training, then large chunks of the course will be geared towards fulfilling the requirements that an NCTJ course demands. You’ll need to complete placements at real newsrooms, and pass exams. The exact modules involved have since changed, but for me, this meant studying Public Affairs (central government and local government), Law (court and general reporting), news writing, and shorthand.

Law was a drag, but is absolutely vital for anyone wanting to work in national newspapers. Public Affairs is great until you get to the local government stuff – it’s unbelievably bureaucratic, and you’re expected to know everything! And shorthand… Well. Shorthand is every journalism student’s nightmare manifest. It’s like learning a new language, and in order to pass NCTJ-standard exams, you need to be able to reach a speed of 100wpm (words per minute). Just to give you an idea of how fast that is, the average typing speed is between 40 and 60 wpm, and people speak at a speed of 110-150 wpm. I struggled so much during my second year to try to get to 80 (a requirement for entry into the third year) and I remember spending the whole summer tense with nerves and worry, waiting to find out if I’d finally achieved 80 wpm. I did, and nothing really matched that ecstatic feeling of vanquishing an academic nemesis.

Alongside these essential topics and the practical sessions, you might learn about journalism ethics - which often wanders into philosophical territory - or news theory (what makes news news? Why are some stories leads and others are given less prominence?) and the media’s role in society both past and present.

In the second year, we also took a module in Global Current Affairs, which was a brief study of international relations, global politics, and pretty much how parts of the world came to be as it is now. We looked at Millenium Development Goals, the role of the UN and NATO, and how conflicts were resolved... or not. This helped frame the western world as part of a whole planet, which is so different from my very much westernised version of history studied at school. Everybody knows about Nazi Germany, but how many know about the start of the Israel/Palestine conflict, the role of the IMF and the World Bank, or the UN and NATO?

How these organisations work, and how international conflicts arise is something so essential for making sense of the world, but you just don’t learn about it in school. For me, as someone interested in working as a journalist internationally, one module of a quick overview of everything that’s ever happened wasn’t really long enough. But, studied alongside other journalistic concepts like news values and the role of journalism in society, learning about global affairs helps to gradually contextualise the vital importance of accurate and contemporaneous reporting - values repeatedly encouraged on the course - and really emphasises the important work that journalists do across the world every day.

In the last year, every student created a specialised multimedia package on a story of their own, with a focus on one aspect of media production. Whereas in the years previous, you could depend on working in a group and not worrying so much, the final major project really helped to highlight your personal strengths and weaknesses. Being forced to think of how to keep a story fresh by using different mediums and different angles is a great introduction to the real world, where creativity in approaches is a valued asset. Pitching skills were tested, as were your skills at finding a story, using a great angle, and of course your technical skills in online, broadcast, and print.

Of course, as with any honours degree, you’ll also be completing a dissertation on any subject of your choice. People did dissertations on things like representations of minority groups in news, dissertations on specialisms in journalism, or comparative studies of different publications. My dissertation was about how people use Twitter to gather news – it was a hard slog to get a first and involved many ‘all-nighters’, but it’s a piece of work I will always be proud of and have to show potential employers.

The hacks of yesteryear were usually History, Politics or English graduates who then went on to do a postgraduate diploma in Journalism. This is still a highly valued route in, yet some undergraduate degrees can offer really great training now - making the need for a postgraduate qualification redundant. Journalism is a tough gig, but studying it at degree level gives you a large base of knowledge to build on, and the breadth of the course can prepare you for a large variety of careers.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Project Manager,Conduct Risk,London,£5-600pd

£500 - £600 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

C# Developer (LINQ, HTML5, CSS3, JS, SQL) London - Finance

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Graduate Content Marketing Executive / Social Media Executive

Internship / Travel & Expenses Paid: Guru Careers: An ambitious and adaptable ...

Email Campaign Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£20 - 24k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a passionate and motivated Email Campa...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on