Massive apologies for not updating this blog as much as I would have liked- it’s been (as you can probably imagine) a pretty full on few weeks.
I’ve been at uni for well over a month now, although it’s felt in many ways so much longer than this. Reading week is next week, something that I’m sure everyone is looking forward to- I’m spending mine visiting friends in Nottingham & Leeds (and anyone else who will have me.)
I’ve learned more about myself in the last six weeks, than in a whole year studying youth work, being amongst like minded people and feeling the most ‘at home’ I’ve felt in years is wonderful. I should have done this years ago – as much as I love youth work, I’ve finally found something that I can be good at, without worrying about not being like the loud, lary and more extroverted youth workers in a team.
At the moment when I tell people what I’m currently up to, conversations tend to go like this…
‘WHAT so you’re doing ANOTHER masters?!’
Or: ‘What happened to all of the youth work?’
and occasionally ‘omg you’re at Sunderland?’ As if I’d just told them that I was going to university on Mars. It’s not so amusing when you hear this hundreds of times.
Comments aside, being Dyspraxic there are some things you’d think wouldn’t naturally go together with journalism- processing information, shorthand, working under pressure and getting things turned around quickly- as much as I’ve found some of this hard, and I’m often on the brink of giving up with shorthand (having been reassured that magazine journalists DON’T need shorthand to do well, irrespective of the debate) I’ve been able to give everything a go. My background and being able to be pretty open on social media/in general life about certain issues has made me more determined than ever to get mental health, Disability and more ‘hidden stories’ into the media, and in some ways I feel that I have ‘a duty’ to do so. When the MA began, I made a list of everything I find difficult for the disability support service and then compared this with everything that’s expected of a journalist, and thought how can this all possibly go together? But in some strange, weird and wonderful way it seems to work. It helps that I’m thoroughly enjoying everything we’re doing, the food in the canteen is even exciting and I couldn’t ask for better people to train with. The best thing about this course is that it’s very practical, so we learn, write and create as we go, and for someone who learns by doing and being shown- this is the best kind of learning.
Mondays are spent up on the top floor of the of the media centre, in ‘the hub.’ A live media environment, where our main focus for four hours is to be ‘real’ journalists, writing for either SR news, Northern Lights or pitching to local and national publications- we put into practice researching stories, interviewing people, gaining feedback, having our work edited and eventually being published. Its intense. Loud. Busy. But incredibly exciting. How can I concentrate on anything meaningful in such a busting, noisy environment? I honestly don’t know- but it’s working. AND I’m meeting all of my 2pm deadlines. I also regularly wonder, am I good enough to be here? As is only natural to doubt myself in such an unfamiliar environment, but then I remember that if I don’t try, I will never know- and that’s exactly what I am doing today, tomorrow and the day after that. If I was too confident, I’d be more worried. So far I’ve written articles about dyspraxia awareness week and world mental health day for SR news. I’ve also written a piece that I’m most proud of, about the release of the ‘I, Daniel Blake’ film, and the people behind the unfair benefit sanctions. The film was powerful, and I attempted to create an equally powerful article portraying the hardship many local people have to go through when faced with cuts and sanctions to their benefits.
In the busiest months of my life so far (bar perhaps A levels & India) I’ve learned how to write news stories, features and reviews. I’ve used editing software and cameras, hunted down a story for video journalism, whilst also understanding how the magazine industry works – and started to design the concept of a new magazine. I’ve listened to media law lectures, and stories about how things can go wrong. If only media law exam questions could be answered with ‘Just don’t do Journalism.’ I’ve felt relatively confident in ‘public affairs’ seminars – we were asked to research our local MP in the first session, something that I knew at fourteen, my background with Gateshead Youth Assembly helps here. I was surprised to learn how many lacked a basic grasp of politics, compared to my upbringing when I was encouraged to debate and hold an opinion from such a young age. Maybe this shouldn’t be surprising, maybe this is just normal- but I don’t want it to be normal. I overthink too much.
How I’ve managed to sleep, eat and feed cats- I don’t know.
If you asked me at the start of this degree, what do you think the most important thing you’d do this year? I would have almost certainly said ‘writing.’ It almost goes without saying that you need to be able to write to be a journalist but then again not all great writers make good journalists. After being here just over a month, it’s clear that one of the most important skills a journalist can learn, is to build up contacts- because without people to talk to, we don’t have stories or anyone to interview. For the first time in about ten years I actually have a physical address book- it’s relatively empty now, but hopefully by the end of the year it’ll be full of lots of interesting people. ‘Networking’ is a terrifying word- something I have to get used to.
My course is busy, intense and I’m exhausted both physically and mentally- for both related and unrelated reasons. My break into journalism may be slightly later than some, but I’m comforted in knowing that I have most definitely made the right decision. Although roll on reading week!
I also have a new (and slightly scary) online portfolio– it’s a work in progress at the moment, but if anyone fancies having a gander you’d be most welcome.
In other news nanowrimo has gone out of the window, along with my ability to sleep….