Ger Ball reflects on his final few months left in his degree and discusses what a course in Journalism is really all about.
As I was approaching the end of Secondary School all those years ago now, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do – I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go to college at all. I’m sure many second level students can relate to this feeling of uncertainty. Well, after countless weeks spent procrastinating and changing my mind, I finally decided that I wanted to go and study Journalism in DCU. It felt good to finally have a plan; now I had to do was get the points and actually do the course.
Anyway, long story short, here I am sitting in a computer room in DCU writing up this article and entering the final few months of my degree – in those three years, I’ve learned quite a few things about the course, things I feel any aspiring Journalism student, and in particular, one hoping to do the course in DCU, will find, I hope, to be helpful.
The first thing that became apparent for me from the start upon entering the course was that my idea of journalism wasn’t necessarily the type of journalism that I’d end up doing. Like many I’m sure, my journalistic ambition was to write for a prominent newspaper publication - The Irish Times in Ireland or, ideally, if we’re talking abroad, either The Guardian in the UK or The New York Times. That was my dream, and I was determined to fulfill it.
However, lecturer after lecturer continuously harped on about the difficulties in finding well-paid journalistic work these days. You’d most likely get your degree, hopefully, have a substantial portfolio built up of various published work and then, if you’re lucky, go work for some small online news site or, conversely, maybe you won’t even end up in journalism at all, maybe you’ll end up in Public Relations. Not quite the romantic view of journalism I had envisaged. However, the first few months in the course certainly got me into a particular frame of mind. It made me realistic; if I wanted to fulfill my dream – something that is entirely possible for all aspiring journalists for sure – I’d have to work to get that opportunity.
Before deciding in embarking on a career in journalism, I’d suggest you do a few things; get some work experience in a local publication or radio station and see for yourself what it’s truly like to be a journalist. Journalism is strenuous, stressful and deadline specific – so I’d advise those who are thinking of studying journalism to get some first-hand experience in before ultimately deciding to study it.
In terms of the course content itself, I found it mostly positive. Lots of modules, especially those in the later years, will have you going to conferences, participating in news days and there’s even a module that is designed to help you create your very own portfolio – essential for those looking to work in the industry upon completion of their studies. I found the lecturers to be mostly brilliant, too. The lecturers were former or current journalists that care about their students and can offer the best advice on how to get ahead in such a cut-throat industry.
On a personal note, I also found that the course has made me a better writer. Now, journalism isn’t really about writing finesse as much as say, succinct, structured and ‘to the point’ writing. However, the course demands a certain grasp of the English language and with the myriad of writing assignments you’ll do, you’ll only improve. Also, let’s not forget INTRA – DCU’s work placement scheme that is present in their BA in Journalism course. Now, seeing as it’s only March, I haven’t had any INTRA as yet as it’s not due to take place for a few months. However, the placement will aid you as in most cases, you’ll be paid to work for a media company and ideally, if you impress, you’ll be kept on in some capacity.
That’s pretty much it. Personally, I’ve already been accepted to do business masters in another college so the course, despite my initial optimism, didn’t turn out to be for me. DCU is a great college and in many ways, studying journalism is also great – I’d just highly advise students to know full well what journalism is like, by doing work experience prior to admission - it’s often quite different to the image we have in a mind. If you do this and are still insistent on studying journalism in DCU, go for it. The course will teach you many necessary skills needed to be a journalist and given the world that we currently find ourselves in, journalism is more important than ever.