What's it like studying a journalism degree during a pandemic
PressPad’s Blogs Editor, Amber Sunner, has returned to university to complete the final year of her journalism degree. Here’s how she’s finding studying a hands-on degree during a pandemic.
I remember when I arrived to study journalism someone told me: “You learn journalism by doing journalism.” A journalism degree should be hands-on. Practical learning is at the heart of studying such a vocational degree I feel. That was how my first two years played out – in a busy newsroom crammed full of student reporters trying to file on time or getting into the community to hear stories to later report on. The fast-paced nature appealed to me greatly as I’m not someone who tends to stay in one place for too long. However, when life as we know it halted because of the pandemic, journalism lecturers were forced to change how they ran aspects of the course. Just like we learnt to wash our hands more often, the hands-on nature of the course was ruled out for obvious reasons.
Social distancing is enforced on university campuses and the exciting nature of life away from home has ultimately been cut short. My first newsday fell a bit flat. Usually, all of the lecturers would gather into the newsroom at the end of a busy day of reporting and feedback was given on our performance and work. But with gatherings being shunned this integral part of our newsdays was stripped away.
The adrenaline rush of journalism is characteristic of the job but it is also in very short supply when the student reporters and the team are not allowed to be near each other.
I knew university was going to work differently this academic year, but I didn’t anticipate how difficult the transition would be. Many courses have gone virtual. Some have supplied their students with at-home journalism kits to help them carry out their work, but I feel this will unmatch the degree we once had.
Sacrifices are inevitable, however. A global pandemic is an excellent reason as to why so many courses have changed and adapted, and brilliantly so too. The ingenuity of lecturers and the university teams is largely unparalleled in the education sector I feel. They set about adjusting an entire course for all years in such little time.
It has given students, especially journalism students, a new experience that makes us a lot more amenable. Dare I say it, maybe it taught us skills that will make us more employable in the future. Each challenge we face and subsequently overcome by trying a different method gives us a new (and hopefully transferable) skill.
The university I attend – University of Kent’s Centre for Journalism – has made the transition as seamless as possible. I am in the “clinically vulnerable” level of risk if I do catch the virus and they have been very accommodating of this fact. However, since returning back to university for a week, I made the decision to not attend in person as frequently, purely for health reasons. I am doing my course virtually. It is harder of course; technology is often temperamental on the best of days. But technology was forced to get better over lockdown as many of us used it as a means to connect with work, family and friends. I do still have the option of going back in to attend in-person classes which I am grateful for too.
I do feel entirely sympathetic for this generation’s graduates, regardless of whether their degree is hands-on. Our final years have ultimately been ruled off and with reports of a looming recession, it appears the job market is unsteady. Having said that, we are truly resilient and determined – many of us moved back into our parent’s homes for six months and if that’s not character building then I don’t know what is! To the student journalists; we also have the skills of adapting our university work to a global pandemic. I’ve started carrying out Zoom interviews for my stories – something I would’ve probably never had done otherwise.
The pandemic has already taught us a lot; the value of friends and family and the time spent with them. But also for me, it has taught me how easily your whole life can be put on pause – I seriously doubted whether my university course would be able to re-start due to the nature of it. However, as every journalist knows the news never sleeps and neither do the lecturers who run the courses it seems!
The PressPad team are aware of the challenges faced by student journalists at present and we want you to feel like you can reach out to us if you have any queries or concerns.