St Bride's: News

Bursary Winner Speaks of his Hopes for the Future

tom_knowles.jpgAs I stand here, surrounded by plaques celebrating past heroes of journalism, I feel slightly in awe. And, I'll admit, slightly worried. Since starting my course at City University in Newspaper Journalism, the recurring theme as each lecturer begins their talk is that we won't get a job. Almost gleefully they tell us that we are entering a profession struggling to stay afloat, that everyone's losing money and hardly any of us will ever find a steady job in the business, let alone one day have a plaque in St Bride's church.

As we down our pints each day in the nearby pub afterwards, it would be easy to imagine us students being made a little glum by such words. But in fact it is the opposite. Perhaps it is youthful naiveté, but such statements simply spur us on. We have heard them all before, many times over. No amount of depressing forecasts on our future will ever make us lose our love for the written word and the pursuit of news.

It is this passion that makes studying journalism at City such a joy. Wherever we have come from, whoever we are, everyone on the course is determined to make it.

Although I'll grant you, the passion sometimes dies a little during those morning lectures in shorthand...

But it is this passion that is evident in our lecturers and tutors too. Beneath the cynical outlook about our future, you can tell these people really care. They go out of their way to go through our articles with us, to answer our questions, to even tell us to tweet properly, and to help us be those great journalists we are so desperate to be.

At university I would struggle to stay awake through my lectures. The room was hot, I had usually stayed up too late the night, and as the lecturer droned on about English Literature in the 18th century, it seemed a perfect time to catch up on a little sleep. Not so at City. Here it is almost embarrassing how involved I become. And I'm not alone. Barely five minutes go by before we are all scribbling something down or asking another question. In another subject, the lecturer might find this annoying, but at City they encourage it.  As Roy Greenslade, the renowned media commentator for The Guardian, told us in his first lecture:

'Please interrupt me and please challenge me if you disagree with something I have said. Journalism is an ever-evolving subject and I am always up for a debate.'

Journalism is a unique job and so, City a unique course. I have had lectures in community blogging, in how to avoid getting killed while pursuing a story, in Twitter, in government administration, in how to sniff out a great story and in sub-editing. Our tutor in sub-editing boasted that he could cut down any sentence we could throw at him. 'Bet you can't cut down the shortest sentence in the Bible', one student said.

The shortest sentence in the Bible happens to be: 'Jesus wept'.

His response?

'He wept.'

But there is a reason behind all these frantic lectures and learning the tricks of the trade. A journalist called H.R.Knickerbocker who reported extensively during the Second World War once said:

'Whenever you see hundreds people running out of a building and a small group of madmen running in, you can be sure the latter are journalists.'

It's a great quote, but sometimes it can feel like that with newspaper journalism in general, that everyone is running out of the profession and we are the mad people rushing in. But if we don't report on the stuff no one else wants to touch, who will? The politicians? The police report afterwards? The committee set up to examine what went wrong? It is journalists alone who strive to keep telling the public what others might not want them to hear. For whatever platform newspaper journalism eventually takes, it is the reader that should never be forgotten.

Journalism for me is a determination to find out, to reach beyond the surface level of a story, to keep digging. With the help of the teachers at City University and the kind support from the Guild of St Bride's, I hope I will always continue to believe in that and keep the passion alive, however unsteady that future looks.       

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