Final Big Issue journalism course finishes on a high

After another successful course, trainees interviewed each other to find out what they thought of it and if it’s worth continuing.

The Big Issue secured funding for four six-week courses that have now been completed, but given its success its hoped new funding can be found.

John Watts, a former screen-writer, who has secured a work experience placement at homeless charity Broadway’s press office since finishing the course, said: “I learnt loads and totally stimulated my enthusiasm for [journalism] and can’t wait to get out there and do it for real. If you want to go into journalism the hands-on practical skills will seriously benefit anyone doing the course.”

During the year-long programme the course has developed a balanced and accessible schedule for people from a range of backgrounds with a range of experiences, but all united in their desire to get back on their feet and into work.

Most of the trainees already have an interest in writing or photography and want to develop it further with a view to getting work experience and ultimately paid work. Others appreciate the importance of developing their communication skills whether it be for business, the media world or their personal life.

Seb Taylor, who has toyed with photography as a hobby for years and has since got his first gig as a festival photographer at the Wickerman in Scotland, said he hoped the course would continue. He said: “There’s a hell of a lot of talent out there, but people don’t know ways into doing this and it’s been a fantastic way to do that. Now I’m set up with the tools to know what to do next.”

The course is based around producing real content to publish online so trainees learn how to write in different styles: news, features and blog-posts, and for specific audiences. They also learn how to use a camera: from composing a good shot, using the built and natural environment for effect and how to take the dial off ‘automatic’.

By week two the trainees are out and about taking pictures for a photo-essay and by week three they’re interviewing people for actual news stories. While some theory is taught before the practical sessions, it is after and on reflection the majority of it is learnt.

Throughout the course the importance, relevance and use of social media is integrated: from using a blog to finding stories on Twitter to getting them read on Facebook. Technophobes are broken in gently.

By week six the trainees have the basic skills, knowledge and confidence to try their hand in the real world, so we end the course preparing them for work: from coming off benefits, creating a portfolio, becoming a brand, building a network and nailing down a 12-month ‘career’ plan.

And it seems to work.

Trainees who have completed the programme have gone onto study for a professional journalism qualification, produce videos for charities, work at the Big Issue, freelance for news agencies, volunteer in press offices and become a festival photographer. All have attributed their success to the course.

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