Journalism? – It’s Never Been More Challenging

Claire Wolfe, Head of Journalism at the University of Worcester, explains the ethos of the BA (Hons) Journalism course at Worcester and, following a visit by members of the Birmingham Press Club, explains the value of links with industry organisations.

Entering the world of journalism has never been a more exciting or challenging prospect and here at the University of Worcester we thrive on helping students from all backgrounds to achieve their ambitions.

Developing a BA (Hons) Journalism degree course to meet the ever-changing demands of both academia and the media industry has meant staying at the cutting-edge of change and embracing new technologies.

The world of media work for all graduates now involves them having to have a knowledge of everything from media law and the complexities of Brexit to using mobile technology, drones and virtual reality headsets.

Progress marches to the beat of an ever demanding public wanting to receive news and related information in a range of formats and at speed.

Keeping pace with this and some of the critical issues facing journalism- fake news, the repositioning of the role and reputation of reporters within society and the impact of fragmented audiences- ensures that learning about how to become a journalist has never been more intriguing.

Here at Worcester we engage with practical elements of the profession together with in-depth analysis of the importance and value of the journalist’s role.

A distinctive feature of the three-year-course is the emphasis on blended learning with core topics being covered and then students having the opportunity to put them into practice and to test theories and ideas in the field.

An essential part of this involves reflective learning, ensuring students develop into ‘thinking’, ‘responsible’ journalists with a developed intellectual insight.

The course began as a joint honours programme, which is still offered in combination with a range of subjects, but a single honours degree was launched in 2010 to meet the converged, multi-platform demands of the industry, while retaining academic rigour.

Being unencumbered by different strands i.e. print or broadcast it meant a truly hybrid course could be developed.

However, pathways were developed within the course to enable students to become specialised in a particular area while ensuring they graduated with a wide knowledge and skills base. These pathways are print-newspaper & magazine, broadcast, photography, sports and politics.

Expanding the course involved the recruitment of high quality staff with strong backgrounds as working journalists, and a significant investment in resources. There are two new radio studios, opened by Nick Owen, a digital TV studio with a virtual set and lots of kit, including mobile devices.

The success in achieving a top class course has been evidenced by:

  • Promoting good journalism through links with the Birmingham Press Club and involvement with the annual student awards. Since its launch Worcester students have demonstrated success in winning categories, with one becoming the 2016 Midlands Media Student of the Year

  • Achieving industry-backing from the Broadcast Journalism Training Council through accreditation

  • Attracting top class staff with track records at the Birmingham Post and Mail, the BBC, ITV, Newsteam, the regional and national press. Many still work in the industry.

  • Developing strong links/partnerships with the media industries for work placements and sharing knowledge. A BBC Media Diversity Partnership involves placements, visits, talks and industry feedback on tasks. A partnership with the local community youth radio station, Youthcomm, leads to regular placements. There are strong ties with the Worcester News and Bullivant Media

  • Ensuring top quality provision. The course achieved the 14th highest rating for journalism degree courses in the country for student satisfaction in the latest National Student Survey.

  • Increasing employment. High levels of direct graduate entry into media spheres including the BBC, Channel 4, local regional newspapers and magazines and as press /communications officers and social media management.

  • Helping students into ‘earn-as-you-learn’ schemes. Significant numbers of students earn income through journalism while studying. In 2017 to date four were in paid work at the BBC, one was paid by ITV to cover the Worcester count in June, another was paid as a newsreader at Youthcomm and others worked at other media outlets.

  • Teaching excellence. The university received a coveted Silver Award in June 2017 for the high quality of teaching, placing it on a par with some of the leading ‘red-brick’ Russell Group universities. High standards are maintained through active membership of the Association for Journalism Education.

  • Ensuring inclusivity. The university has a strong reputation as being a centre of learning for students from all backgrounds, ethnicity and levels of ability. Adam Lione, a partially sighted journalism student, went on to become a Junior Producer at Channel 4 after a traineeship

  • Promoting and supporting student entrepreneurship. Midlands Journalism Student of the Year, Conor Rees, took a magazine project described by the judging panel as an “extraordinary body of work”  99 per cent to production.

  • Enjoyment and success. Our students enjoy learning. Lecturers inspire, resources are plentiful and students enjoy the experience. This was evidenced in 2016 with our highest level of first and 2:1 degree, lifting us above the national average.

We are delighted to be associated with the Birmingham Press Club and to know that many of our graduates enter employment with the media organisations in the West Midlands represented by many of the members.

We are keen to develop this relationship as we see it as playing a pivotal role in keeping journalists networking and developing ideas to help keep the profession vibrant and up-to-date. Continuing to develop links between industry and will ensure our young people are well prepared for work and able to play a positive role as reporters at a time when good journalism was never needed more.

 

Claire Wolfe, Head of Journalism at the University of Worcester, has a strong background in news at regional and national level, including work as a Senior Journalist at the Birmingham Post and Mail and News Editor and Night Editor at the Daily News. She spent six years training journalists on a post-graduate NCTJ course at Gloucester and developed a successful Single Honours BA at Worcester. She has published a number of academic papers on journalism, including the value of work placements, and delivered a paper on the impact of Internet Trolls on journalism and democracy at the World Journalism Education Conference in New Zealand in 2016. She is on the National Executive of the Association for Journalism Education.

Claire can be contacted at c.wolfe@worc.ac.uk  Tel 01905 542240

For more details about the course please contact Admissions Officer Christine Challand at c.challand@worc.ac.uk