“Stand up if you were a school captain or prefect or came first, second or third in any subject in year 12,” Jenna Price announced on the first day of my Journalism degree at UTS. I stood up. Only a handful out of the 200-or-so first year students remained seated. We were a bunch of over-achieving high school students brimming with optimism about the future of what some say is a declining industry. In truth, I was intimidated. While I always loved writing and knew I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, there was a small voice inside my head saying ‘can you really do this?’
It’s a cliché but this degree really threw me into the deep end. Looming deadlines tied my stomach in knots. How the hell are you meant to find a story when you have zero contacts, zero interview experience and just stepped out of high-school? That’s the best – and scariest – thing about studying journalism: you learn by doing. It is a different type of independent study. In other communications subjects, you do the readings (in theory), talk about it all in class then write 2,500 words to prove you’ve been paying attention. Journalism subjects are nothing like that. You get your brief, have to find a story that fits the assignment, find contacts that actually want to give a student journalist the time of day, conduct interviews then write/shoot/record and edit it all together into a newsworthy piece. You don’t write essays about journalism, you just do it.
I’ve met some amazing people and had incredible experiences as part of this degree. I went to the sentencing of a Commanchero Bikie, attended an open training session for the Western Sydney Wanderers before they made it big, checked out craft breweries and wineries (because journalism), and spoken to some of Australia’s top scientists. The tutors I’ve worked with are all media veterans and have imparted invaluable advice.
It never gets easy to find and produce stories, but with each assignment I get a little less panicked, a little more confident and gain a few more skills. I’ve found that to succeed with this degree you need to:
- start assignments early
- pretend you are more confident than you really are
- use your networks
- have time for unpaid internships but don’t stay in one for too long
- be critical of your own work and don’t make excuses for yourself
Above all, don’t be intimidated by the other students as I was to begin with. If you work hard in your own way, this will be a very rewarding degree.
I am in my third year of my five-year double degree in Communications (Journalism) and International Studies (Québec, Canada) at the University of Technology, Sydney.