Guest Post – Harry Low: fast-track journo courses
October 16, 2010 7 Comments
Wannabe Hacks goes back to the blackboard this week and Harry Low – already shorthand-deep into a fast-track journo course – lets us know exactly what it’s like and what to expect.
‘Special outlines’, ‘leading and kerning’ and the ‘fade factor’ are a few phrases which – had you presented them to me a month ago – I would not have had the foggiest what you were on about.
However, having just completed my third week of a fast-track journalism course, I would at least feel able to give you an indication of what is meant by these words.
The pace of the course is quick. Not too fast but we are progressing at a speed which feels appropriate considering that we need to have all coursework written, portfolios completed and exams sat (and hopefully passed) within the 18 week duration .
The course, roughly speaking, runs from Monday-Thursday with hours usually around 9am-2.30pm. In addition to the 17 or so hours of contact time, we are expected to do up to 10 hours of additional study each week as well as complete work experience on our Friday off.
In order to fit this in a few things have become apparent:
Bring the right equipment
A cancelled train meant that I arrived almost 30 minutes late to my first class (perhaps allow plenty of contingency time if travelling by public transport would be another worthwhile tip, but that’s for another day). I had, though, made sure I had with me the necessary pens, pencils and – crucially – a shorthand notebook: a key item for any wannabe hack.
This allowed me to get to grips with writing the shorthand alphabet and any special outlines – shortcut words, if you like – that we need to know. Not having a copy of the shorthand text Teeline Fast, which we are using for our course, made the first few lessons more difficult.
Ordering books in advance is good practice.
Keep up with the reading
Easier said than done. However, there’s nothing worse than sitting in a classroom listening to a discussion on the ins and outs of the law of contempt and not having the faintest idea what is happening.
By reading I do not simply mean academic texts on public affairs or media law. As obvious as it may sound, it is also valuable to read newspapers; and not just broadsheets or only tabloids but a healthy blend of both. Even if you dream of writing for The Guardian, it is useful to have an awareness of how other publications are written, who is writing the articles and which style a newspaper is written in. Other newspapers could, ultimately, end up being your competition or, if you freelance, your employer.
Make friends with those on your course
As The Student made reference to not long ago, the people on your course are the journalists of the future. This point was emphasised to us by our tutors almost as soon as we started the course and I believe this to be good advice. These people could potentially be valuable to you at a later stage.
Even if it does not transpire that way, they could become good friends in the process, which can be vital when starting in a new environment.
Oh and for the record, ‘leading’ is the space between the lines of text and ‘kerning’ refers to the space between letters and words.
Harry has written various sports articles for a range of publications. Aside from his course commitments he also commentates for the blind football fans inside the Charlton Athletic stadium.