By Christopher Ubsdell
Our journalism course started on November 6th and already I’ve learned much from the tutors. Once we had made tea and settled down, we begun by conducting interviews among each other to get to know each other a little better. This wasn’t as terrifying as it sounds as we were provided with questions to prompt us. Fortunately everyone on the course seems really nice. Then we continued by learning about the basics of communication, and the mediums by which it is delivered. We were taken over the four methods: Written, Imagery, Verbal, and Performance. Following this were some examples of mediums, such as the Internet, television or radio. We moved on to a discussion on the idea of a target audience and who they might be. With the example of the Big Issue, we talked about how three important target groups might be Third Sector staff, service users and those with a social conscience. I have my own blog but I had never thought about any of this before and it got me thinking about how I could use this in my own work.
Next we were given some leaflets about various locations and events in London, and were asked to describe the purposes and nature of the items. I was very pleased to be handed an advertisement for The Soho Theatre and a leaflet describing a series of lectures and art exhibitions at The Institute for Psychoanalysis. They were easy to decipher and we discussed in detail the style and target audiences.
After lunch, we moved on to talk about Press Releases, how big they should be and the reasons they are published. We talk about how they are targeted at journalists and how they are used to limit bad publicity. This immediately made me think of Government departments. We also discussed the things that are normally included in a Press Release and they style in which they are written. Following this we were given some examples of Press Releases and were asked to pitch our potential stories to the tutors in the manner of real journalists to an editor. I chose a story regarding the victory of Chile in this years Homeless World Cup. The tutors briefed us on how to write a ‘NIB’ or News in Brief. The most important thing to remember here was the five Ws. Who, What, Where, When and Why. The tutors explained that sometimes there was a ‘How’ to add to that list, but with that list of W words as a guide it is possible to construct a story in the style most suited for delivery. With our Press Releases we were then tasked with writing a NIB for the Big Issue Online Journalists website. We then moved to a computer room and wrote our stories in the appropriate way, with the help of the tutors who were always in hand with advice and ideas about our work. They were most helpful and encouraging.
The following day, we all met in the same place in the afternoon. It was straight on to the computers to finish our NIBs for the website. I had one or two minor adjustments to make, but on the whole it was fine. The most difficult thing was finding a non copyrighted picture of a low key event that happened far away. In the end I decided on something simple. My finished article can now be seen on the website here
To end the first week, we were taken through the basics in photography. I haven’t used many cameras before so this was a point of interest for me. We were handed some very technical looking devices and the functions were explained. We had to consider light, background, and other elements in the composition of our practice shots. Then we headed into the street outside in pairs to take a few shots of each other. It was a cold and busy day but it was not unpleasant. We wondered around snapping away for a while, and then returned to the room to see the results. As a subject I always seem to photograph really badly and the exercise allowed me to consider the idea of being behind the camera which was preferable. I took one or two decent shots of my pair, and a tutor showed me were I was going wrong and gave me some tips on how to improve my images. This was very helpful and I took much away from the exercise, remembering that light was important and not to be afraid to ask the subject to pose in a certain way.
I came home after that first week with a sense of having completed something. A feeling of minor achievement. The next five weeks are going to be challenging but I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and learning how to improve my copy and other journalism skills. I think the course appeals to my inner need of story telling, which will only grow from here.