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Studying a Masters in Journalism
For those who’ve got their sights set on a career in the media world, a Masters in Journalism can be a definite asset. “This is a very competitive industry to enter and the more ‘job-ready’ you can be the better,” says Angela Philips, who runs the Masters in Journalism at Goldsmiths, University of London. She adds, “Publications in the UK increasingly demand a post-graduate qualification of some kind so that they don’t have to train new recruits.”
Pedro Cifuentes, academic director of the Masters in Digital Journalism at IE University’s School of Communication, in Spain, agrees. He argues that demand for graduates with a Masters in Journalism has been driven by dramatic changes in the sector, meaning a very different set of journalism skills and knowledge is required.
“Journalism has changed almost more than any other profession in the last decade,” Cifuentes says. “New media need professionals with innovative abilities, creative thinking and a new entrepreneurial mindset. Those interested in getting into journalism need to develop new skills (without neglecting traditional principles) in order to face the radical changes in the industry.”
Similar points are made by Colleen Marshall, associate director of admissions at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Journalism. “The journalism industry is evolving and journalists need to be able to tell stories across all platforms. Many journalists are attending graduate school to develop their digital media skills, others are going back to school to grow their journalism network, and some to improve on their journalistic fundamental skill sets.”
Key skills gained?
There is certainly plenty of change and challenges still ahead for the next generation of journalists! If you think you’re ready to take these on, what journalism skills will you need in order to succeed?
First, it’s not usually necessary to have studied journalism at undergraduate level in order to be considered for a Masters in Journalism. Most graduate journalism departments will consider applicants from a range of academic backgrounds, as long as they can demonstrate the following:
- Excellent written and spoken communication
- Excellent time management ability to meet deadlines
- Good research skills
- Awareness of current technological developments in communications media
- Ability to find a new and interesting angle on a story
Relevant work experience is also usually a must – and last but not least, admissions tutors are looking for applicants who really show passion for the subject.
Angela Philips, director of the Masters in Journalism at Goldsmiths, adds “I want candidates who have cut their teeth in student journalism, or had a fair amount of work experience, so that they know what it means to stay up until 4am to hit a deadline.” She adds: “You need to have the drive and commitment first. We can probably teach you the rest.”
What journalism topics should prospective master’s students be on the lookout for when choosing a course? For Goldsmiths’ Angela Philips, a wide-ranging syllabus is essential. “On a good Masters in Journalism program you should learn a very wide range of journalism skills, from how to research and write a basic news story, to how to lay-out a page, work fast online and handle social media,” she says.
More specifically, the following journalism topics are likely to be particularly useful for future graduates:
Studying media law means learning about the various legal issues that are likely to be relevant within careers in journalism. This includes laws relating to copyright, confidentiality, privacy, censorship, freedom of information, defamation and intellectual property.
Also known as data-driven journalism, data journalism refers to the growing field of journalism based on analysing large data sets and transforming them into information of interest to readers or viewers. This means learning how to work with large quantities of data, filter it to highlight specific aspects, and present it in an interesting way.
Also called online journalism, digital journalism refers to the many innovations in journalism arising from the internet. Specializing in digital journalism could mean focusing on writing for websites, search engine optimization (SEO), use of multimedia, and strategies to generate revenue from online content.
There are also many essential journalism topics that are more traditional – such as key skills in researching and reporting stories, whether from a news angle or more of a features or comment-style perspective. Key journalism skills covered here may include interview techniques, verifying information, approaches to finding stories, and reporting for TV or radio.
Lots of other journalism topics may also be offered. For example, it may be possible to specialize in a particular subject, such as sports journalism, or in a particular part of the journalistic process, such as subediting. Related subjects may also be covered within a Masters in Journalism, such as photography, advertising or graphic design.
Careers in journalism
Thanks to the fast pace of change in communications technologies, careers in journalism are more diverse than ever before. Of course, many of the more traditional journalism jobs are still available – newspapers, magazines and news agencies remain among the largest employers of journalism graduates. But new technologies are also opening up many new and evolving roles too.
Popular careers in journalism include:
Newspaper magazine journalism
Roles within newspaper and magazine journalism include researching and writing news and features articles, editing and commissioning content, subediting and fact-checking, photography and design. Jobs in this field may incorporate both print and online journalism, with many newspapers and magazines operating in both media.
TV radio journalism
Those who fancy a career in TV or radio journalism also have lots of different options to choose from. Here, roles could include research, script-writing, presenting, filming, editing and directing. Different roles will require more expertise in using broadcast equipment.
While many journalists work across both print and online, many also specialize in online journalism. This could simply mean producing content (written or multimedia) for a website, but there is also high demand for online journalism specialists to work as consultants and strategists, helping media companies make the transition from print to online.
Many journalism graduates also go on to work in the advertising sector. This could mean working on advertising campaigns across a range of different media – print, TV, radio, online, billboards and so on. Roles likely to be of interest for journalism graduates include copywriting, public relations, research and creative direction.