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24 September 2011

Why?

On Monday just short of a hundred young people will start a three-year course in Journalism or Sports Journalism at Leeds Trinity. I'll be very interested to find out why they're doing it.

Back in 1977 there weren't any degree courses in Journalism. There were NCTJ certificates, earned on the job by cub reporters on newspapers. I could have gone down that route, but my parents were ambitious for their boy to be the first in the family to go to University (they really did pronounce the word with a capital 'U').
The nearest course I could find was something called 'Communication, Arts and Media' which I hated. Lots of socio-linguistic babble, and I've never been able to enjoy Japanese cinema since being forced to watch 'Rashomon' over and over. But it did give me enough spare hours hours in the week, during a three-year buffer with a grant, to get my knees under the table in local radio.

Now the J-word fills prospectuses everywhere;  some Journalism courses are excellent, others are at best 'Media Studies 2.0'. What's certain is that only a small proportion of graduates can ever find a niche earning a proper living from practicing journalism in the real world, especially in the current economic situation. So what will the rest do?

Some may go over to the dark side and practice public relations; use the skills of effective communication to sell stuff. Some probably stay forever in education, and teach the skills they've learned but never practiced lower down the food chain. Some will do unrelated jobs for money and practice hobby journalism on the side - the legions of bloggers and Tweeters. Some probably just want three good years of growing up and some random letters after their name.

So 'why?' will be the first question I ask when I get in front of my first-ever class of undergraduates in October; I'll be interested to hear their (and readers') responses.

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