Guest Post – Joseph Stashko: three-year journo degrees


In another guest post special, Wannabe Hacks is delighted to introduce Joseph Stashko: a writer and blogger who likes online, student journalism and social media. He is currently working on several online projects and – this week – takes us through the ins and outs of straight three-year course in Journalism.

University is a daunting prospect for anyone.

Joe Stashko

Before you arrive fresh-faced at student halls there’s the question of what exactly you’re going to study. For those aspiring to a career in journalism, traditional subjects along the lines of English, History and Politics are typical of many in the industry. Despite new courses springing up frequently, the study of journalism itself has now been around for a long time. My course (BA Journalism) at the University of Central Lancashire has now been active for over 40 years, so it’s becoming a fairly well-worn path.

If you’ve chosen the path of an undergraduate degree in journalism you can look forward to a rigourous education in sourcing, media law and cutting down on wasted words. It’s a good way to get a rounding in a subject area that has a great deal of depth for analysis, despite the vocational nature of many courses in the UK.

Based on my own experiences, the first year can sometimes feel a little slow. This is the same at most universities, but it’s to grasp the basics of what you’ll be building upon in the second year.

Use extra time (you’ll have a lot of it) to do something productive.

If you really want to do some ‘proper’ journalism in your first year, get some friends together and start a project outside of lecturing hours. Start a blog that focuses on a subject that you have direct access to. Write about the local area, or go even deeper and write about an even more specific area of interest, like local community sports teams. There are stories out there to be told, and it’s very unlikely you’ll ever have this amount of free time on your hands again.

My second piece of advice would be to get to know the area you’re in as well as possible.

That doesn’t mean recording the time it takes to get from your halls to the union bar, but really exploring. So many students live in ‘the bubble’ that it’s easy to habitually stay within your comfort zone, so either take a bike or wander around your university town on foot. It’ll give you a head start when assignments start being doled out; you’ll know the geography of the area and be able to identify potential locales of interest faster than anyone in your class.

Finally, I’d recommend getting a thorough grounding in a subject that could help augment your journalism. There’s a reason why the path of an arts degree followed by an MA in Journalism is so well worn; students learn the ins and outs of a subject for three years, and then spend a year getting their news sense up to scratch.

Shorthand and Fountain Pen

For those embarking on an undergraduate in journalism, the vocational aspect is already taken care of, but students should make sure they keep informed on other fronts. If you’re interested in politics, don’t just read the papers, seek out some core texts that politics courses prescribe. Learn a language. Explore a niche hobby. These things can be considered a pastime but will only help contextualise and add authority to anything you write.

All this may sound like you’re condemning yourself to a lonely life of lectures and studying punctuated by unpaid reporting. I had 7 hours of lectures a week last year, and on top of that managed to pass my first year with a 2.1, hold down an editorial position on the student newspaper, begin to run a hyperlocal website and regularly update my personal blog. In addition I (shock horror) managed to have a social life as healthy as any other student. There really is a lot of time to be creative with the safety net of student life.

If you’re about to start a three year course in journalism, I wish you the best of luck and hope your first year is as productive and enjoyable as my own!

Joseph Stashko has just finished his first year at UCLan. He co-edits the hyperlocal website Blog Preston, blogs here, and you can also follow him on Twitter.

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About Matthew Caines
Community & content for the Guardian Culture & Media professional networks | founder of @wannabehacks @withinreachmag | find him on Twitter @mattcaines

One Response to Guest Post – Joseph Stashko: three-year journo degrees

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