In my third and final of study it became clear that I was not interested in pursuing a career in history, which offered the stereotypical career choices of a historian, teacher or librarian. Although, it was clear that I had an interest in current issues around the world. This ranged from politics to sport, with a particular interest in the ever-growing fight against the climate emergency. I began to think about pursuing a career in journalism and whether it suited me. I had always kept up to date with the news, but it was initially daunting to think about shifting away from history, a subject I had studied for three years.
I began to research postgraduate courses in journalism at different universities across the country. However, after enjoying my three years at the University of Kent it seemed only right to spend another year studying at the Centre for Journalism (CFJ) on the Medway campus. The question remained though, as to whether my parents would be on board with the heavy financial burden of another year of university study and the awkwardness of postgraduate loans.
This question was answered one evening, when I saw an advertisement on Facebook for a course titled ‘a Year in Journalism’ at the Centre for Journalism at Kent. This seemed like the perfect fit as it was categorised as an extension of my undergraduate degree, so funding was simpler process. Studying at CFJ would also allow me to work towards achieving my NCTJ Diploma (the golden ticket to securing a job in journalism).
After taking an entrance exam and attending an interview at the centre, I was offered a place. This allowed to me focus on finishing my dissertation and my exams with the exciting prospect of studying journalism from September onwards. Summer went by in a blur and the new academic year came around quickly. It was time to move the boxes that had been sat in my living room all summer to Medway.
Gillingham Building: The home of CFJ
One noticeable difference between studying history and journalism even from the get-go was the practical element of journalism. Right from the start we were treated as journalists and sent out on patch collecting stories. It was a daunting but exciting prospect.
The first few months went by quickly, we were swept of our feet with our training.
We had conference every morning at half nine. At first it was a struggle getting up and out this early. Conference involved us discussing the daily news agenda with selected individuals pitching an idea every day. The pitch was a task which we all feared to begin with. But as you settle into routine at CFJ it becomes clear that pitching and conference was preparing us for life as journalists beyond the walls of the CFJ newsrooms.
Our routine included daily shorthand lessons; the essential second language for journalists. At first, we were all confused by the process of scrawling down hieroglyphic like symbols as fast as you can. But you begin to get used to it and eventually you will forget how to write normally, with your usual handwriting beginning to resemble scrawls and squiggles.
Example of a shorthand passage resembling hieroglyphics
The next few months were taken up by our print and TV assignments. The latter of which involves you mastering the skill of carrying camera bags and tripods whilst looking professional. Eventually, there becomes a time where setting up a tripod becomes second knowledge. A skill that all of us would need in December.
This was a month that was crucial for the whole nation with the General election on the 12th. However, this was a particularly crucial month for us as trainee journalists. CFJ works closely with KMTV (whose studio is located on the Medway campus) which provided us with the fantastic opportunity to work as interns for KMTV on election night. This involved us heading off in pairs to counting location across Kent to report live on the events of the night.
After weeks of listening to the back and forth of politicians, election night arrived, and it was a night that was set to shape our nation for the next five years. Armed with camera kit, snacks and gallons of coffee (the caffeine was a necessity) we headed to our election count. Throughout the night we captured the atmosphere at the count, interviewed the candidates, reported live on Twitter and reported the results as soon as they came in.
Left: Callum and I before the tiredness kicked in Right: Lily and I still smiling at 7am
It was a LONG night and I finally got into bed at about 7am. But this was an experience that I would remember throughout my journalism career, an experience that would not have been possible without CFJ.
In the New Year, we switched to studying radio. This involved working in the studio with all the tech which would make you feel as if you had your own radio show. My radio assignment involved interviewing a councillor on adding urine to your compost heap. A rather unusual topic which I never imagined reporting before studying at CFJ. This is one of the most exciting elements of studying journalism; you never know what you will be reporting on next.
The topics discussed during conference had switched from the General election to Brexit. But I don’t think any of us were prepared for what was coming next…
The details of Coronavirus cases in China began to trickle into the news agenda but we never believed that the virus would affect the UK on the same scale.
Flash forward to March (a month which is normally taken up solely by the stress of NCTJ exams) and the whole country is in lockdown as we have been told not to leave our homes. The number of cases continues to rise, and we spend our days waiting for our daily update from the government on the situation.
It seems like something out of a zombie apocalypse movie. Supermarket shelves have been ransacked, toilet roll has become a luxury that is nowhere to be seen and the streets are deserted besides the occasional runner out on their daily government mandated exercise.
The lockdown has meant that unfortunately my time at CFJ has come to a rather abrupt end. We were meant to continue studying until June. But now with only a few online lectures and online exams to go, the end is very much upon us.
Saying goodbye to friends, lecturers and university altogether has been tough. But the seven months (a little shorter than planed) I had at CFJ have shaped me into the journalist I hoped I could be.
Trained in print, broadcast and online journalism, it is now time to find a job to put this training into practice.