Week One As A Journalism MA Student

shorthand and coffee

Coffee and shorthand – I’ll get used to seeing these!

By Selina Sykes (@Selina_Sykes)

So I’ve finished my first week as a journalism MA student and I’ve already done my first piece of assessed work, chased local stories, had an inspiring lecture on reporting in conflict zones and tackled shorthand. There is no such thing as a slow start when it comes to this course – it’s a sprint from the word go.

At the end of our introductory lectures to news and the magazine industry, we were told that we had to prepare an assessed presentation in groups. Whilst we were all a bit shocked to be thrown into the deep end so quickly, leading a seminar is far less daunting as a postgraduate. We decided to do ours on the role of Twitter in journalism and the problems it poses for journalists. I think it went pretty well, though we will have to see when we get our marks back!

Just when I thought we had been tested enough in our first week, the second day brought yet more surprises and challenges. After a quick introduction to news gathering and finding stories, we were told that we would have to go out and find our own…in just over two hours. Whilst I had read about this task on several blogs, I was still not prepared. Before I knew it, my course mate and I were frantically running around the streets of Kingston in search of a story.

We decided to investigate whether or not any disgruntled locals had complained about rowdy freshers – a common occurrence in most university towns. It started as a bit of a wild goose chase, with us running from the town hall to the council, before checking out the police station and scouring local pubs, cabbie stations and shopping centres. Although, oddly, it did feature us getting a hug from a local grandma!

Although the lack of leads was quite frustrating, I found it exciting every time we got a whiff of a something that seemed like the beginnings of a story. We eventually managed to get a tip-off from the council about several noise complaints from residents in one road. We managed to get some quotes from locals and pub managers, but ultimately we still thought the story was a bit weak.

We dreaded reporting back. However, our news lecturer was actually very happy with what we’d managed to find out in such a short space of time and now wants us to follow it up for the Kingston Courier – which is the local news website we’ll be working on from next week.

In addition to frantically hunting local stories, we’ve also had our introduction to media law – which is definitely going to be a lot to take in! During the year we’ll also have a series of lunchtime lectures from journalists talking about an area of interest or specialism in the field. This week we had a really interesting and inspiring lecture from Azadeh Moaveni who has reported in the Middle East.

I’m looking forward to these as they are a great way to give us more ideas on what to do next. The UK editor of BuzzFeed is coming in next week, which is quite a contrast, but also another interesting and very relevant side to journalism for our age group.

The week ended with us being given our first taste of shorthand. Even though most of us had looked at the first chapter of the textbook and practised our alphabet a bit beforehand, we still found ourselves gasping in disbelief by what lay before us.

It is no exaggeration in saying that shorthand is like learning another language. As a linguist I think I will find it quite enjoyable and rewarding in the end. Although the first two hours were gruelling and rather frustrating at times, I could already see progress after lunchtime – practice does make perfect after all.

By the time the week ended I felt that I had learnt a lot – and one thing was for certain; by Friday I really felt I had earned my evening at the pub!

Have you just started a journalism course? Want to write about your experience? Share your views with us on Twitter @JournoGrads or drop us an email!

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