Five things I learned in journalism school

I’m graduating two weeks from today, so I thought it would be helpful to list down a few things I learned in the last three years, and things I wish I did more. This isn’t really journalism advice, but a post about how to navigate a journalism course.

1. The assignments worth fewer credits are somehow the hardest

Every group project will have some kind of element worth under 10% of the grade which somehow ends up taking most of your time. For print or online projects, this is usually layout. No one ever anticipates the work that goes into layout and design, and no one really appreciates it once it’s done either. This is something you will spend a lot of your own time trying to teach yourself.

2. “Good” never means good

This is especially true of feedback students receive in class whilst working on projects due to be submitted in the future. Often a lecturer will read, watch or listen to your work and tell you that what you’re doing is good, but the official written feedback and grade will suggest there is vast room for improvement. Asking “what can I do to make this better?” is something I wish I had done more.

3. Doing vox pops gets easier but you will never really like it

Vox pops are usually the first assignment journalism students get. Doing them is helpful for getting over the initial fear of having to *gasp* talk to people in the street, and sometimes they are actually fun to do.

One time when we were doing a Christmas radio show, I was asking people about the weirdest presents they were given and a guy told me he got a toilet seat. Most of the time however they are an exercise in surviving rejection, because nobody want to talk to students.

4. If English is your second language, people will always comment on it but rarely offer helpful corrections

I have heard this from a number of people on my course and had similar experiences, particularly in my first year. The feedback I would get would say the copy was good but language use could be better – without actually telling me what was wrong.

5. Your personal tutor is awesome

And if they aren’t, try and find someone who is. This links in to the point above, as your tutor will probably go through some of your work to offer general feedback and work out areas of improvement. They should also be encouraging, and having a helpful tutor who cares about students helped me immensely in my last year. If your tutor doesn’t seem helpful or your meetings feel like a waste of time, do yourself a favour and look into working with someone else.


General advice

  • Use your university’s career service. They can help you with any job related thing that can cross your mind.
  • If something is bothering you, speak up. Chances are it’s bothering other people too and you can actually do something about it.

Missed something that can help journo students of the future? Want to correct my language use? Leave a comment below.

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