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I'm sick and tired of the abuse journalists are getting at the moment. They don't deserve it, at least real journalists don't - ...

09 July 2012

For He's a Jolly .. Strange .. Fellow

In what's turned into a year of picking up unexpected titles I've just been appointed a 'Teaching Fellow' at Leeds Trinity. There's no money in it (at least, not for me personally) but I get the green light to develop exciting new links with community partners in Leeds and Bradford.

A teaching career was never on the radar when I started work in what's rapidly becoming a forgotten age of commercial radio, an era brilliantly recalled by David Lloyd in a recent blog post. So now, with my current postgrads busy on air producing bulletins for BCB 106.6FM, it's come as a shock to realise I'm in my twentieth year of developing news talent.

Which is very strange, because I really am the world's least likely academic.

Back in the seventies when I became the first student our family had ever produced 'media studies' was a proper degree. It was new. It was exciting. Very few places did it. Broadcasters, unbelievable as it now seems, opened their doors willingly to media students.

The actual course I took was called 'Communication, Arts and Media' and featured numerous unreadable texts written by west-coast American sociologists. Some of what we did was vocationally relevant. Most of it wasn't.

For example my appreciation of 'Rashomon', and by extension any Japanese cinema, was destroyed by being forced to watch and analyse it over and over. But the absolute low point for me came with one assignment in something called semiotics.

I could probably still define it, if you insisted, but I would lose the will to live in the process. Defining it then was, in effect, the assignment in question. I needed the marks so with a Herculean effort I wrestled with the words in front of me until some sort of meaning emerged from them.

The paper came back as a grudging pass and was annotated with a dismissive comment, my passion for wireless being already well known by my final year of study:

"There is no need to reduce every concept to the banality of a radio script"

Justified or otherwise, those fifteen words have defined my attitude to academia ever since. Why I've resisted pressure to write papers, to take higher degrees, or to publish.

But now, at long last, I sense the tide is turning.

Suddenly the accent in Higher Education is all on employability, entrepreneurship and practical skills that will be of value in the workplace. Things I understand. Things the radio industry finds useful. Things the parents who will be helping fund students on £9K fees will appreciate when choosing courses.

It's been a lonely road to get here, but we've arrived.

From October my first crop of final year undergraduate radio students (or at least, those who can be bothered to drag themselves out of bed to attend sessions and participate fully; the rest can go whistle so far as I'm concerned) will be immersed in the reality of producing speech radio against the clock for community broadcasters in Bradford and Leeds.

The Fellowship money will pay travel costs, and will buy some hours of a colleague's time to help supervise them  in the field.

Our community partners will get some valuable on-air content.

The students themselves will feel the stress, then the thrill and hopefully the final satisfaction of getting their work on air to an audience - instead of talking to themselves in a classroom, as is the norm on so many so-called 'Journalism' courses.

That's what I call a win-win-win situation. If that's not too banal an outcome.

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