A capital training experience

When it comes to journalism, nobody in the industry likes to be on the wrong side of a story. And yet, perhaps there is no better training for novice journalists than experiencing what happens when someone picks up a sniff of a story and runs with it – all the way down the garden path.

Yesterday was one such day.

I am a lecturer in the journalism department at Leeds Trinity University. Yes, that’s right, that’s the university that has a brilliant record in employability. The university that’s proud to hold a fantastic Journalism and Media Week every year. The university that has a strong relationship with alumni who value the training which got them brilliant jobs behind and in front of the camera, travelling the world and following their dreams. Oh, and it is, apparently, the university that’s banned us from using capital letters (let me set the record straight now… it hasn’t).

So yesterday, while first year undergraduates were out testing their mettle by filming packages about the possibility of a second referendum, Black Friday and the expensive housing market in Leeds, while final year undergraduates were running back-to-back live radio broadcasts, while students from year one to post-graduate were appearing on a BBC broadcast about the future of local news, some of our esteemed national media were more interested in bandying about a misconception.

  

Experience: Broadcast journalism student Kudzai talking journalism futures with the BBC

And while the ‘story’, has been recognised as a non-story by other members of the industry (because they have seen the original memo which simply advises lecturers to explain assessments in a clear way which every student will benefit from) some kind of Brexit-fatigue perhaps appears to be fanning the flames of a tale, which if interrogated would fall flat on its backside.

Our students are not ‘snowflakes’ – that’s a derogatory term which shuts conversation down and fails to give credit or respect to the voices of young people. It’s a bullish label which belongs in the playground and minimises reasoned debate.

Our students are bright, intelligent, interesting people who know a hack from a handsaw. While flimsy journalism might manage to get some sparks out of these already dying embers, they crack on with the real job at hand; getting a degree and making the most of every exciting opportunity given to them.

And now they have had one of the best training experiences yet; knowing  when a story is a non-story and knowing it will be tomorrow’s fish and chip wrappers – if  you can still make such a thing from clickbait tabloids and their ilk.

Data day – the PhD push for information

It’s all become a little academic round here recently. I’ve just completed my third round of data collection looking at journalism job adverts on http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk (see here for more details on the study). The first two years of that data collection formed the basis for my brief involvement with a book which was published last month. Entrepreneurial Journalism by my colleague Paul Marsden is the first book I have contributed to – it was very exciting to see the final product when it arrived in the post today!

Since the start of the year I’ve also been testing a survey which will be sent out to regional newspaper journalists in the UK later this year and I have been arranging placements for observational fieldwork research – all of which will feed back into my PhD project.

So, to be honest, I feel a bit like I’ve been juggling cats while riding a rollercoaster, but on Monday, hopefully, the hard work will start to pay off as I set out on my first fieldwork placement.

The aim of the overall research project is to identify skills and tools used in regional newsrooms and to analyse news production processes with the intention of having a positive impact on journalism training within higher education and industry. Also, I would like to get my PhD. 

If you are a journalist working in regional newspapers and or on an affiliated digital product and you would like to know more or get involved please drop me a line. Enquiries from other sources are also most welcome! You can email me at r.whittington@leedstrinity.ac.uk

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