I would have loved a list like this for when I started university. Journalism isn't a core subject so is often overlooked and it can be quite hard to find basic information that would help you make the choice on whether it'd be a subject you'd want to study at degree level.
That's where I come in - to make a life little easier for you aspiring/possibly considering maybe going into it but you're not sure yet journos.
For those that don't know, I'm a first year Journalism student at the University of Winchester.
1. STUDY A-LEVELS
I chose to do a BTEC in Journalism at college and it was absolutely brilliant - don't get me wrong. I had helpful and considerate tutors and had a great time whilst I was there... but now I'm at uni, I think it may have helped more to do A-levels. Although you'd think it be better to study Journalism at college before you do it at degree level, it's not necessarily the case. In the first year, you study different areas of Journalism to the areas you study in college and it feels a bit like going back to square one. By a bit, I mean it feels like going back to square one.
A-levels that would be good to choose to help you would be: (in order of importance)
- English Language
- English Literature
- Film Studies
If you have the option to do Journalism as an A or AS Level or as an enrichment programme, I would recommend you choose it.
2. HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT KIND OF JOURNALISM YOU WANT TO GO INTO
Although this isn't a necessity, it is certainly helpful. There are several different areas in Journalism; investigative, radio, television, travel, culture, news, political... the list goes in.
Different universities specialise in different kinds of Journalism. You can pick the uni you think would be most appropriate to you if you know what you want to get into. That way you'll be concentrating on what you're interested in mainly, rather than focusing on television for instance, if you want to work for a newspaper.
3. IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE NEWS
I know this seems obvious but I know all prospective journo's don't necessarily read/watch/listen to the news as often as they should. Don't pretend you do.
I found it difficult to get into the habit of paying attention to the news regularly as it didn't fit in with my busy schedule, or so I thought, but there are ways of getting around it.
I would recommend downloading The Times, The Guardian and The Independent app if you have an iPhone or iPad. However, heed my warning, some lecturers do not regard the above newspapers as any good. I feel differently, as I feel they appeal to students so they're reaching a market that isn't often appealed to newspapers.
I'd like to point out at this moment in time, The Daily Telegraph won National Newspaper of the Year in 2010. The Guardian then took the title from the Telegraph in 2011.
Anyway, enough of that.
What I have been told to do by a Journalism lecturer is;
- Listen to the Today Programme on the radio from 7.45. At 8.10, the most important person in the country on that day will be interviewed. I know most of you won't still have or regularly use a radio unless it's in your car, you can still listen on line or even buy a cheap radio. It's perfect to listen to whilst you're getting ready for your day as it'll keep you up-to-date with minimal effort. Just turning it on.
- Whenever you can, listen to Radio 4 and Radio 5. They may not be your first choice but they do broadcast useful material that can teach you techniques for your own career.
- Read The Daily Telegraph. Although the majority of the readership is 40+ and it can be hard to understand, it is considered at the best newspaper around.
- Read at least one tabloid and one broadsheet a day. This will increase your knowledge of the different kinds of journalism whilst still keeping your news awareness high.
4. RESEARCH DIFFERENT UNIVERSITIES
This is something I definitely didn't do enough. I relied on other people to tell me about good universities and courses - but no one knew. I even ended up applying to two universities by accident! I applied to Sheffield Hallam and Leeds Metropolitan thinking they were just Sheffield and just Leeds.
Luckily, my dad is from Winchester so I was forced to an open day here. Despite hating the opening university lecture, I fell in love with the course as soon as when to the subject lecture. I wouldn't choose my route though, I was lucky.
I know it's hard to find out the best universities for Journalism so I made a list for you (in no particular order).
- University of Winchester
- University of Sheffield
- Bournemouth University
- City University London
- University of Kent
You can't really go wrong with studying at any of the above Universities, but as I said earlier, it's all about finding the course that suits you.
5. MAKE A BLOG
Every University is going to want you to create a blog, no matter what kind of Journalism you want to go into. It's best to get it started as soon as you can.
I started my blog around nine months before my course started and it helped me understand readership, traffic sources, promotion and basically, just helped me get to grips with maintaining it.
The recommended sites to create a blog on are Blogger - the best choice - and Word Press.
Below is a tutorial video on creating a blog.
Remember, the more you post, the more you'll understand over time. Practise your writing, your skills and eventually it'll all come to you.
6. RESEARCH YOUR TUTORS
The university you are considering may having shiny Mac's and brand new equipment but that's no good if your tutors aren't any good.
Read up on them - do your research! You're starting to become a journalist already.
Key things to look for when researching your tutors are:
- Are they still in practise? You don't want to be taught about how the industry works 20 years ago, you want to know how it works now.
- Will they have contacts in the industry? It's all well and good if they've written for a tiny, local newspaper or magazine but if you want to make it big, you want lecturers who know the ropes.
- Where have they worked before? You need quality publications - BBC, ITV, Independent, Telegraph, Channel 4, Radio 1 - don't settle for anything less.
- What are the specialities? If you want to go into Television Broadcasting, make sure one of your tutors is in it!
7. GET SOME WORK EXPERIENCE
I'm not talking at the BBC or anything, just your local newspaper, magazine or radio station.
It'll give you a heads up on how the industry works. Everyone has to work their way up from the bottom unless they're incredibly, super duper rich or amazingly good looking. If you hate it, maybe Journalism isn't the route for you.
8. KNOW WHO THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN ENGLAND ARE
It may seem basic, but you have to know who the most important people in all areas, not just the areas that interest you.
Here's a general overview;
PRIME MINISTER - David Cameron
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER - Nick Clegg
THE QUEEN - Elizabeth II
SECRETARY OF STATE - William Hague
LEADER OF THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS - Nick Clegg
LEADER OF THE LABOUR PARTY - Ed Miliband
LEADER OF THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY - David Cameron
ENGLAND'S FOOTBALL MANAGER - Roy Hodgson
Don't worry if you don't know them all now, it'll all come in time when you start keeping up to date with the news.
9. LEARN THAT YOUR OPINION WON'T COUNT FOR A LONG TIME
This is definitely something I have not yet got to grips with.
One of my tutors said to me today, "The best article I'll read by you will be one I can't tell you wrote."
I completely couldn't understand it at first. Surely that's the whole point?
But it's not. You have to start at the bottom. People don't always want your opinion. Normally they never want your opinion.
News is about facts, not until you are well established within the industry will people care about your opinion.
It doesn't mean your not entitled to have an opinion, just don't put it into your work.
10. DEVELOP TOUGH SKIN
The Journalism industry can suck at times. You are constantly against people that are better than you that are applying for the same position you are. You will constantly receive criticism and will constantly make mistakes and do things wrong. You might misprint someones name and then get your publication sued. The person you want to interview might be a complete arsehole.
BUT, it'll all be okay. As long as you stay strong, all the bad things will make you stronger and hopefully, you can learn from them and be the best damn journalism the whole world has seen.
So there you have it - the basic tips if you want to study Journalism at uni. Think long and hard about what you want to do, it's a lot of money and a lot of work - but the outcome could set you up for the rest of your life.