My Life, Student Life

The Second Year On My Course – Journalism

Now, lets talk Journalism!

Practical Journalism 2

Compared to Practical Journalism 1, which was the equivalent of the unit I studied last year, this unit was definitely more challenging and there was a lot more pressure. Tutors gave us help and guidance, as well as all of the information that we all needed for all of the coursework. However, we as the students were given responsibility over the subjects of each piece of coursework: sourcing photos, interviews, everything that was required for that piece.

This was a lot of stress and pressure for me as I had never done any of this by myself before. I had done parts of it, alone, such as sourcing interviews to fit the subject we were given. I understand this was just a step up from last year and these crucial skills are needed in a career in journalism and this unit is preparing for it but it was daunting, all the same.

Trying to get a handle on things and revising the skills I learned in Practical Journalism 1, I applied these to my pieces of coursework, along with the newly acquired skills I gained this year. Having more free rain over the subjects and themes of my coursework, I tried to pick ones, which were very important to me and that I would enjoy writing. Last year, I found it difficult to write news stories, accidentally writing them into features without realising. Now having the task to write features for this year’s coursework, I struggled to write news in a layout and language that is needed for features. While our Practical Journalism 2 workshops covered feature writing, I tried to attempt to write rough features and then handed them to my tutor for feedback to be able to improve in time for the official assessment. I also practised because the subject of my first feature was really important to me.

I wrote a feature based on the taxi trauma that I had outside Birmingham New Street station and the Hearing that followed. Sculpting the content of this feature from the first-hand perspective, I fitted in an interview that I did with Teresa, the licensing support officer which I had close contact with, following the complaint I made. I didn’t get a very high mark for this feature, reflecting now, I think I concentrated too much on the subject, I chose and not enough on the feature guidelines to get me a good enough result.

Later on in the unit, after other pieces of coursework, we were set another feature. This time, I did an interview with a friend and based my subject on mental health. I knew how important this subject is as a whole. Then I remembered what our tutor said when he talked about writing features. The main focus of features is people and how the subject I chose, affects them. I can’t go too much into this subject. However, I was able to use all of the interview content in different ways to make the feature effective. I kept checking the guidelines to make sure I was on the right path and kept reviewing previous feedback to make sure this one was better than the first. This extra caution and method worked, I got a higher mark on this feature than the first one.

Out of the five pieces of coursework, my favourite pieces were a blog post and a film review. I was very confident when I saw that one of the submissions for the unit was a blog post.

Once again, I decided to write this blog post on a subject I cared about. Thinking it through, again and again, I decided to write about ‘Changing Places.’ A new range of disabled toilets, with a hoist and similar facilities which people, physically, visually, developmental and mentally disabled can use more easily when in public.

For me, and I suspect other people in similar situations, the changing places facilities are very useful. Before they came into existence, I struggled to go out for hours and not need the toilet. Yes, I could use them, but not easily, due to the restricted space and the lack of facilities. Taking this subject and emotions I felt towards it into a piece of coursework, I feel I was able to write it quite well and effectively. However, I did get some very harsh critics about the subject I chose, but I got the mark that I roughly wanted and was happy with the blog post I constructed. Months on, I am planning to rewrite it and add more detail to it and publish it on my own blogs.

My other favourite piece of coursework for Practical Journalism 2 was the ‘Arts Review’. We were given options on what type of ‘Arts Review’ to write. A review of a stage play or a concert, a restaurant review or a film review. Thinking it through, the decision was obvious. I go to see a lot of films, more than I should admit. There was a selection of brand new films, I was planning to see, it was easy to select one to review. However, before I choose one to submit, I wrote a film review for each of the films I saw, to allow me to experiment with each one I wrote. In the end, I decided to submit the film review of Pixar’s latest creation, Coco. I enjoyed writing this film review so much, I now have an area on my blog, full of film reviews.

The final assignment of this unit was the one I had been dreading all year. In a group, we had to create an eight-page supplement based on a theme which we were given. I always disliked working in groups for class assignments as this was often the assignment, which was the most heavily marked out of them all and this was the assignment that I was the least in control of compared to the others. Though each member of the group was responsible for our own contributions to the assignment, the overall mark would include the group’s work as a whole. I didn’t like this as we had to depend on the other members of our group as well as ourselves and I couldn’t tell how the other members would work and how it would work out. Would everyone pull their own weight?

I tried to work with the same group that I did when I did the group newspaper at the end of practical journalism 1. Unfortunately, this was not possible as the members were in a different class at a different time and it would be too challenging. Instead, I got together with another group of three people and we got to work. We decided to do the eight-page supplement with the theme of health and fitness. Using this theme, I wrote two features. I felt I was able to write them well, interview effectively, asking all of the right questions to get all of the content I needed to make the articles and theme work. After many attempts at both articles, I was pleased with what I was able to produce.

Once I had written both the articles, the most difficult part came. All of the assignments in this featured the use of the InDesign software, to make the assignments, particularly the eight-page supplement look more professional. Annoyingly, I am unable to use this software as it quite physically impossible as I do not have the use of both hands, so I didn’t do very well in this part. Speaking with my personal tutor, I was able to come to an agreement with my personal tutor that I would do the assignments and include all of the elements that were required, but not do the InDesign software. I felt encouraged by this, especially when he reassured me by saying that the work on the InDesign software wouldn’t affect my marks.

Journalism Issues

This was definitely the most difficult unit that I studied this year, out of the four I completed. After making the choice to complete a dissertation in Journalism in my third year, I knew that it would be an intense year ahead in order to prepare me, as well as other students on this pathway for next year’s dissertation. Every lecture and seminars were tailored to the dissertation in one way or another.

The first lecture was a breakdown of what to be expected on the unit, throughout the year. Then in the first seminar, we were given a handbook with a list of the resources we needed for the unit as well as all of the assignment guidelines and other such details. I was taken off guard to find that we were to pick our presentation titles within the first seminar and tell our tutor, which one we selected.

That I wasn’t expecting.

Panicking, I quickly scanned through the titles and choose to base my presentation on ‘how much influence does the media have on audiences.’

I felt very confident with this selection as I had done research on this subject before and I could build it up with more knowledge and research I would gain on lectures and seminars.

Once the lectures and seminars started, I found that each of the presentation titles had individual lectures, specifically based on them and then that presentation was due in the following week’s seminar. This came as a shock and I felt very grateful that I already had knowledge and research on the title I choose as if I left the presentation work until we had the lecture based on the title, I would only have a week to write and prepare for the presentation, which was nowhere near enough time. I did not want to fail this is how I meant as marks counted for more this year and it was my dissertation preparation unit, which made it even more important to me.

Luckily, my presentation title was a few weeks into the term, so we didn’t have to lecture based on this title until November and I was able to feed factors from others lectures and presentation content I heard, into my own presentation.

This all worked out quite well, so much so, that I was able to construct a good presentation, before having the lecture on my presentation title. Once I did have this lecture, I was able to put more detail on to my presentation and mould it so it would include all the content that was needed as well as extra parts.

I also felt reassurance in the fact that my tutor had read my disability statement about my anxieties and allowed me to submit the presentation to him with all of the details, without orally presenting it in front of the class.

The academic essay was even harder than the presentation, once again I had that pressure on me that I needed a high enough grade to pass and contribute to the overall grade of this very important unit.

Having been given the essay titles, I chose ‘What is meant by media power?’

At first, I thought this would be an easy subject to write on, I thought it was similar to the present question about the influence of the media on audiences, however, I was very mistaken. To a certain degree, it was, but then it was a completely different ball game. I won’t bore you with the full ins and outs, but I will say this, I was able to see a wider perspective on it and I will never view the media the same way again.

Then came the hardest assignment of the unit and probably the whole year, now I think about it. Since this is my first year, when I made the decision to complete my dissertation in Journalism in my third year, I knew that there would be some hard times ahead. Originally, when I was at Southampton Solent University, we were all asked to start thinking about our dissertation question at the end of the first year, to be more prepared for the third year. However, because of difficulties, I never returned for my second year at Southampton Solent University, so I never got the chance to complete a dissertation there. Although I didn’t do a dissertation at Southampton Solent University as planned, I did start to think about the subject that I would like to write my dissertation on.

Fast forward to this time around, I decided that I wanted to base my dissertation on, ‘How is Disability Represented in the Media.’

Once the academic essay and the presentation were submitted, the lectures and seminars were dedicated to writing a dissertation proposal and the dissertation itself. My eyes were open to all of the information that had to be included within it and the number of different forms of research that had to be mentioned in the proposal and included in the dissertation. My head hurt after every lecture and seminar we had on dissertation prep. It ached for such a long time, while I was trying to get my brain to contain every bit of information we were given. Trying to make sure, I included everything in the proposal, I made bullet points on the different lecture and seminar content to keep a record of it, so when it came to typing it all out, it was much easier to do so.

Following all the research I made and the methods we were taught, I narrowed it down and made the question more focused and journalism-related, ‘How Accurately is Physical Disability Portrayed in TV and Film & What Is The News Surrounding These Portrayals?’

I would like to say I am optimistic for the third year, but the truth is, I’m terrified.

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