Deadline season is drawing to a close, birds are singing, the weather is heating up (sort of)… This seems as good a time as any to pause, breathe and look back at my time at City.
TL;DR: Plan better, don’t procrastinate, try and learn statistics.
That first day back in September seems like absolute ages ago. The year goes quickly – very, very quickly. So with that in mind, I thought I’d offer what (admittedly not very expert) advice I have to any aspiring journos looking to join the course.
Plan, plan, plan
I was an arts undergraduate. This in no way prepared me for the level of planning, organisation and scheduling that is integral to doing well on a journalism masters course. You’ll get the first few assignments, think – oh, a couple of months, that’s ages. It’s not. The deadlines will just keep piling up, and you’ll hopefully be trying to juggle work experience placements too.
You’ll probably need to arrange interviews for your assignments (this takes a lot longer than writing up the piece does), send off FOI (Freedom of Information) requests, go to relevant events… this will All. Take. Time.
Get your hustle on, and start thinking about assignments the day you get them.
Read your media law textbook before the course start
Related. Media Law will be one of those modules that are absolutely central to your journalism training (you don’t want to get sued), but a pain to learn at the time.
The exams may consist of a lot multiple choice questions, but don’t be fooled – you will need to know cases, specific Acts, names of the Chief Attorney General etc. etc. It’s a lot to take in, and once term starts, it doesn’t leave much time for reading.
Rumour has it that one of my coursemates (anon.) read the entire media law textbook the summer before the course started. I really wish I had too.
I do the MA Interactive Journalism course, which involves a data journalism module. It’s great, and you get to learn cool things like data scraping and how to make online maps and stuff.
But something I really wished I’d done before the course was to get at least a basic grasp of statistics, and excel functions. You don’t need an expert level of knowledge or to be a numbers whizz – but look up a couple of ‘introduction to statistics’ guides online. Or if you can’t be bothered, read my coursemate’s excellent guide on our course website, Interhacktives. It’s very good.
Over the year I’ve found myself in places talking to people I never would have thought of – from attending a Pegida rally in Newcastle and live-tweeting it, running around central London live-blogging busking sessions, talking to data scientists, pensioners, healthcare professionals… the list is endless and never predictable.
Embrace the madness, and enjoy it all.