The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade says that we are “marching slowly towards the death of newspapers”. The internet is awash with blogs such as ‘Newspaper Death watch’ and ‘Cynical journalist – Tracking the demise of the newspaper industry’. Figures show that sales of the newly launched ‘I’ paper, the first new national to be launched in years, have fallen by over half in the month since its launch.
So, what idiot would pay thousands of pounds to do a newspaper journalism course?
Well, I’m one of 37 idiots at City University London doing the MA in newspaper journalism. Call me naive, but I’m confident that I’ll come out the other end with at least some sort of job vaguely related to newspapers and journalism, and if I have to wait a year then so be it. I might not be on the Guardian news desk, or writing features for the Sunday Times, but even if I was, it surely wouldn’t be THAT outlandish or unbelievable, would it? The world wants news and trained journalists are needed to provide that news. Ironically, the aforementioned blog, ‘Tracking the demise of the newspaper industry’, is written by one of the students in my class.
If I have learned anything on the course so far it is that the word “newspaper” in the title is used rather loosely. Nowadays, at least on the nationals, where City students aspire to be, there’s no such thing as a mere “newspaper” journalist, and that is reflected in our course. The newspaper course is aware of the changing demands of the newspaper industry and for some students this comes as a frustrating surprise.
There is a huge focus on the internet, the importance of blogging and what we jokingly call “expanding our online real estate”. Not only are we strongly encouraged to have frequently updated personal blogs, but we are also writing group blogs about things such as infographics and data journalism, mobile journalism, online video journalism and user generated content. On top of that, the majority of students in my class either freelance for the nationals or contribute to various websites on a regular basis. We are taught about search engine optimisation and how to get as many of the right people as possible reading our online work. We are all striving to get our names out there and maximising our chances of impressing the nationals in a bid to get on to their editorial trainee schemes. We are also practising what will no doubt be a huge part of our job when we get one.
We are given the opportunity to avail of the television equipment in City’s journalism department and have made news packages and edited footage in a variety of programmes such as Final Cut Pro and Window’s Movie Maker. Newspaper design isn’t abandoned either and we’re slowly working our way to becoming pros on Adobe InDesign. These skills make us attractive to employers who want multi-skilled journalists that they can depend on to handle new technology and deliver news fast.
Despite claims that newspapers are dead and that there’s no need for journalists in today’s world due to blogging etc, I firmly believe that the latter, at least, is a load of old tosh. Of course we need journalists. The thirst for news will never be quenched and there will always be a demand for quality journalism which only trained journalists can deliver to a high standard. Newspapers are not infallible and make mistakes here and there, but the public will always trust a known name before they’ll trust a miscellaneous blogger. For example, if I spotted an interesting piece of news on an individual’s blog, I’d immediately search reputable news websites in order to verify it.
If, or perhaps when, printed editions no longer exist, newspaper websites are flourishing and will continue to do so far and beyond the demise of the traditional paper format. Therefore, along with my fellow 36 idiots at City, I will hopefully have a job, which may not pay very well, but that I have worked towards since my early teenage years and which I will love going to every day.
I will be posting the London Letter every week with news and views on London, newspapers and journalism in general.
Catherine Wylie is a reporter at the Press Association in London.