Category: Teaching

Reporting Millwall with students from UCA Farnham

In the press box at The Den

I took a group of first-year students from UCA Farnham to The Den last night to watch Millwall beat Coventry 3-0. Millwall’s press officer Deano Standing kindly offered to host six students, and he gave the group a tour of the stadium and potted history of the club pitch side before the game began.

The experience seems to have gone down well, although I think the speed at which reports need to be written, edited and filed caught most of them by surprise. However much you say this in the classroom, it’s not until you put people in a real situation that the penny drops and this was invaluable experience.

There’s another trip coming up next week, courtesy of Brighton & Hove Albion. One of my former students from LCC is working in the press office there and the club have very kindly offered some places for the England under-19s game against Denmark next Thursday.

I’m always on the lookout for press box opportunities for any live sporting event, and UCA Farnham is keen to develop relationships with more sporting bodies, so contact me if you think you can help.

Sports Journalism at UCA Farnham

Preparing for an exciting new spell of work is one of the things that’s kept me away from the blog for a while. This Friday I start teaching at UCA Farnham on the Sports Journalism course, and I’m really looking forward to it. The course looks at sport, its impact on society, the changes in the audience and how the passions and loyalties connected with sport have been absorbed into the modern globalised industry. There’s a fair bit of basic reporting skills stuff too, with plenty of practical work and a brief to challenge accepted thinking and provoke discussion.

It’s almost like I wrote my own job description! First impressions are that it’s a fine course, with a talented group of tutors and in a lovely location. Despite the early start and hack down to Hampshire Surrey (thanks to my colleague Simon Clarke for pointing out my careless error). I’m really looking forward to it. I suspect there may be more material connected with the course and how it pans out on this blog as the year progresses. If all goes well, there are certainly some exciting developments in the pipeline.

How to pitch and market a book – one-day course

My successful course for authors, How to pitch and market a book, will run again at London’s Frontline Club if a sufficient number of people are interested. The last course was well-received by those who attended and there are examples of favourable feedback on my website. The course is aimed at at anyone thinking of writing a book, but will especially benefit people who can bring a current project with them. Continue reading

NUJ offers new course in multimedia storytelling

Working with the NUJ’s professional training department, I’ve designed a new type of course that we hope will address the needs of many existing journalists as well as be of interest to people coming into the business for the first time. While most of the union’s training programme aims to furnish delegates with a specific skill, this course aims to provide some space for media workers to consider best practice and identify what areas they need to develop their skills in. Continue reading

Student politics – media school style

UAL election poster Spotted at the London College of Communications building at the Elephant and Castle yesterday – an illustration of the pitfalls awaiting aspiring student politicians at a media school. It remains
to be seen whether George ‘Teddy’ Clarke’s election strategy is successful, but one potential voter is less than impressed. Scribbled on the top right of the poster are the words “Why are there six typefaces on this one poster?”. It beats lambasting people as dangerous leftwingers or raging reactionaries.

LCC uses the courts against its own students

Senior management at the London College of Communication, where  I teach part-time, are taking an increasingly heavy-handed approach in the face of continuing student protests over course closures and reorganisation plans.

According to the latest report on Arts London News – the website produced by students as part of their course curriculum – an injunction against ten students has been issued. The court order prevents the named students from entering certain parts of the college. It would seem that, despite the vogue for referring to students as customers in our marketised education system, the idea of customer service still has some way to go.

Staff have also been wondering how much the college is paying the private security guards it has drafted in, this at a time when lack of funds is being used as a reason to cut jobs and courses. Jonathan Leader, the tutor who witnessed the attempts by security guards to break up a student protest, expressed the feelings of many in a letter he wrote to the college management.

Meanwhile, talks between the staff unions and management seem to going nowhere fast, with a threatened strike ballot looking almost inevitable. Oh, and in the midst of all this we’re still trying to teach.

LCC students occupy college as row over cuts is ramped up

Students at the London College of Communication staged a sit-in at the Elephant and Castle site this week in protest at course closures and cutbacks. The action followed a flash occupation of Head of College Sandra Kemp’s office last week by over 100 angry marketing students.

The actions are the latest manifestations of anger over a programme of course closures and compulsory redundancies that has simmered for months. College union the UCU claims management have not made the business case for the closures, have not followed consultative procedures, and are refusing to honour redundancy deals. The college says it has consulted properly, but staff who have been asked to present the case for their courses to continue after they have received notice that they are to be shut down are not convinced. The UCU has given notice of its intention to ballot for a strike.

It seems to me, as a visiting tutor, that this is a classic case of management testing the strength of the staff unions. There may well be a case for reorganisation, but it has not been clearly made, and it is the failure to follow set procedure – something there is no shortage of in academia – that is really stoking the fires. All this on top of constant battles to resource courses and the vast amounts of time wasted on basic administrative tasks because of the inability of one central department to properly communicate with another.

Latest developments, in which the leaders of the occupation are being threatened with disciplinary action after a heavy-handed move to quash the protests, don’t seem designed to calm troubled waters.

Note: I searched in vain for a link to post up which gave the college’s side of the story. There have been a number of carefully-worded staff memos, but nothing I can link to which would at least show the case the college claims to be making. It’s all about communication.

College mid-term report

At this time of year, college work really kicks in, as accumulated admin builds up, the first tests are staged, and new ways to get students who have missed sessions and tests up to speed needing to be found. Hence the inactivity on this blog which has taken the stats down to rock bottom after last week’s peak. So this is a brief round-up just to keep my head above water – or whatever the cyberspace equivalent is.

Both courses I’m leading at the London College of Communication are going well. The reorganised first year unit, still labouring under the unwieldy title of Production for Media Convergence, is being well-received by students now they are able to focus fully on a particular production strand for a set period. There’s no shortage of imagination or creativity as they experiment with and negotiate a path through the new media landscape. My copy-editing strand also allows us to begin to address the issue of raising the standard of basic writing skills – still the cornerstone of a media career.

The second year production workshops in which we divide students into print, online, video and audio strands and get them to work up a single project are going extremely well, with the students really beginning to push the boundaries. It’s a great learning process all round, and the tutorial team are already looking at ways to further integrate the process next year while still ensuring all students get experience across the board. It’s yet another example of how the trade is having to address the question of how far multiskilling can go and at what point specialisation is required, and also simply what production process works best in what circumstances.

We’re hoping to get the projects up on line for a more public profile later this year, but academic institutions still tend to be a little nervous about work produced in an educational environment going up publicly – yet another example of the new challenges we’re all facing.

Wednesdays are very long days this term – 8am train into LCC, set-up by 9.30am, teach from 10am-4pm, and then down the New Kent Road to New Cross to teach a 7-9pm evening class at Goldsmiths College. It’s another new course, Introduction to Contemporary Journalism, and there’s a really interesting mix of students. I’m taking them through the basics this term, and encouraging discussion and critical analysis. Several have already told me they are looking at the media with fresh eyes, questioning angles and looking at the techniques employed by the media they consume.

Being able to show that media is accessible while still emphasising the importance of the trade’s skills and values is something that makes it all worth it.

Medium, message and magazines – University of Arts students blaze a trail

At a major business-publishing house I visited yesterday, someone asked the question “Does anyone really want the word ‘print’ in their job title any more?” This morning I came across some young journalists who would say ‘yes’.

The Arts London Monthly Magazine Club was set up by Kate Rintoul, who happens to be one of the students I teach at the London College of Communication. “The idea of the club is to get different perspectives on the same magazine… with the more visual people highlighting details about the shoots and layout; and the ‘wordy’ people like me drawing on features and uses of language,” she explains. “I am aware of the trials that print journalism faces – so recognise that encouraging people, especially students to keep picking up copies is a positive thing for the industry.”

It’s another example of something which really struck me during my first year teaching journalism, that students are less obsessed with the medium and more focussed on the message than many established journalists. This may be because they are not dealing with ‘change’, just looking at what can be achieved with what’s available.

The Magazine Club’s formation was sparked by a debate over a Vogue cover, and Vogue is a magazine I use to illustrate a point about medium in one of my sessions. People who buy Vogue want a lavish, glossy, physical entity that they can leaf through at leisure – and, let’s face it, leave around as a badge of style on a prominent surface. That experience can’t be replicated online. But what the print edition can’t do is show footage of the catwalk shows, which is where vogue.co.uk comes in.

Of course, vogue.co.uk offers far more than just Vogue TV, but it seems to me this illustrates the opportunities now on offer to really understand and communicate so much more effectively than ever before. Moving images show how the clothes move and carry, and give a flavour of the designer’s personality and statement by projecting the whole catwalk experience, while still photos allow the  consumer to drink in the look and style at leisure, alongside more considered analysis and background.

The Arts London Magazine Club is fashion-focussed, and draws on all the constituent colleges that make up the University of the Arts, London. It’s a great example of making space to think, to analyse and to question – something we don’t do enough of in the trade. And, of course, it’s focussed on print. If anyone wants to get invited along to tell these students why they’re wasting their time looking at print, get in touch with me and I’ll pass your details on to Kate. ;-)

Building college courses, gathering work, and a little bit of vanity

Just a quick progress report this, as I’m busy preparing two units for the London College of Communication’s Foundation Journalism course.

The first is a basic production convergence course for the first year, which I’ve reorganised to give clearer teaching blocks in the various disciplines and some more general grounding, especially in content management systems. I’ve also been asked to take on the running of the second year convergence workshops, which are very rewarding to do, and which also gives a very welcome opportunity to see the first years I taught last year again.

I’ll also be teaching again on the BA Sports third year, delivering a series of sessions in contextual studies alongside Denis Campbell, Jonathan Wilson and Pete May.

It’s a lot of preparatory work, and I’m also fitting in working up a proposal for a new book, and a marketing strategy for my new book The Pocket Book of Spurs. This Thursday I go to Sutton to speak to Martin Couzins and Karl Schneider about how Reed is handling changing technology for a feature I’m writing, and I’m waiting to hear back on a couple of feature pitches too. All that said, I’m still open to any offers.

You’ll have noticed a couple of tweaks to this blog. A new photo replaces the looming gargoyle that greeted you before, the banner colour is warmer, and I’ve removed the text as it seemed superfluous. And I’ve added an image of my website to the My Website page. Not exactly a major redesign, but I’m happier with it all now.