MA Journalism – Semester 1 Recap

I’m now officially into the second semester of my masters degree!

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Cheese and crackers with my laptop. That’s what all good journalists do isn’t it?

Compared to last year, back in the days of being an undergraduate, this degree really has been a lot of work! I spent a lot of the first semester last year effectively twiddling my thumbs (I chose not to do a lab based project), whereas this time, I was trying to find a story in everything for my portfolio.

So what work have I done?

Law and Institutions

This module was all about the laws that journalists need to know. Among other laws, we covered the Contempt of Court Act 1981, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, The Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. So pretty cheery stuff. In the institutions side of things, we looked at political campaigns and the changing theories behind those.

I submitted an essay based on contempt of court in the internet age, seeing if social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook could render the law useless (it was the Eighties when it was made). For the institutions assessment, it was a group discussion, where everyone had their character, I really enjoyed debating in this way, and maybe I’ll get the chance to do it for real sometime.

Finally, there was the exam. Three hours long, closed book. But I think it went alright, and hopefully I’ll get a good mark from that.

Core Writing

This module really focused on moulding our writing skills, taking the basics that we need to know and making us masters in them.  Hopefully, if you were to look back at the earliest blog posts here on Newbie Science, you may see a slight development.

For this module, we had to submit three portfolios.

Portfolio 1: A 300 word human interest story (community), two community news stories (150 and 300 words) and a 250 word news follow up.

Portfolio 2: Take three news stories based on similar subjects and merge them into a 300 word piece (this is involved cutting out 700 words!), we had to make it flow and also had to correct spelling and grammar mistakes.

Portfolio 3: A 650 word Q&A interview, a 1000 word feature, two opinionated blog posts (which you can find right here on Newbie Science) and a 300 word speech report from a public lecture that the journalism school regularly lays on.

Doesn’t sound too bad? Well, anything can be made into a story I guess, but the good ones take time and searching.

Core Broadcast

Radio and TV. I have a newfound respect for radio after going through this module, we learnt the skills needed to write for radio and for TV (short sentences, full words, uncomplicated language), though there are differences. In radio, you must paint the picture in the listeners mind, whereas in television, you write to accompany and enhance the pictures.

We had three radio news days, every morning we had to come in with stories, write them up and record the pieces which hopefully included interviews. It’s fair to say that the first two were a bit ropey (maybe that’s an understatement), but we definitely improved. We only had one television news day, I played the role of news editor and it’s fair to say that…if it were for real, I’d be scouring the papers and internet for a new job. We ran horribly late and there were some technical difficulties.

Assessment wise, we had to produce a radio portfolio, which included vox pops, clips, voice pieces and the cues and copies. We also had to write a critical assessment of either a radio or television news bulletin. I chose the lunchtime bulletin on Radio 1, and I will say that they do the news incredibly well, it’s slick and to the point. Finally, we had to make our own television news report, lasting between one and half minutes to two. In that, we had to include our research and contacts, as well had to go out and gain interviews.

(I’ll be including a separate post about the equipment that we’ve been taught to use, so stay tuned!)

Ethics in Science and Environmental Journalism

As my official course title is Science and Environment Journalism, I obviously have to do this module. Here, we focused on how fraudulent scientists can be (faking results, stealing ideas etc), the corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, as well as the biomedical science industry (that made me squirm, my degree is in that!), and we also looked at how the media can propagate health scares, with a prime example being the MMR vaccine debacle.

For this assessment, I’m writing an essay looking at how the media have treated HIV over the years, starting in the 1980s when it was said to be a ‘gay plague’, to nowadays, where it has become the topic of social injustices and the hope for a cure.

So what about this semester?

Well, my modules are science communication, which includes lots of visiting speakers and a trip to somewhere like the science museum (yay for school trips!), online journalism, print production (I get to make my own magazine!) and research methods, which I’ll be needing for my dissertation.

There’s plenty more work to be getting on with then, but I’ll still be trying to get on here to post my mix of science stories, recipes and the life of a trainee journalist!

P.S. Here’s a great shot of Lincoln Cathedral from the ferris wheel at the Christmas market!

The cathedral from a height!
The cathedral from a height!
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