Like an aquaphobic paedophile at a kids’ swimming pool, the industry of journalism appears to be caught in two terribly conflicting minds.
On the one hand, journalists see themselves as keyboard-wielding Jedis, exposing wrongdoing and protecting society with their extra-special word powers. On the other hand, the whole business is inescapably enslaved by the greedy, pig-headed beast that is the market system… and those in power will happily martyr their morals for the sake of a cheap buck.
This professional confusion has quite inconsiderately applied itself to my career. As mentioned before, my degree is split into two halves: the NCTJ diploma in journalism half and the MA in multimedia journalism half. It turns out that the two are about as compatible as Satan and a salad.
For example: in my NCTJ module, ‘News Research and Writing’ we learn how to dumb down news to the most common denominator and write sensationalist headlines to get people interested. Simultaneously, in my Master’s module, ‘Journalism in Transition’ we learn why both of these things are killing the industry.
Similarly, whilst for the MA we study in depth the ways that modern technology is revolutionising journalism, meanwhile we are forced to study shorthand for the NCTJ – the industry skills equivalent of teaching a modern doctor how to bleed someone with leeches.
Why, you ask? Well, despite the NCTJ course being denounced by academics for being archaic, unfairly marked and just “oh so 20th century”, most media companies won’t look twice at your CV if you don’t have the diploma. The message from the University of Sussex is “lie back and think of England”.
The reaction, as you can imagine from a group of middle-class students, is to throw our iPhone-shaped toys out of the seafront pram that mummy and daddy are paying for. On top of this, the NCTJ – undoubtedly proving their supreme wisdom – are coming for an accreditation in a couple of weeks… in the middle of our exam period.
In the words of a certain faded mainstream band named after two words for the same thing: ‘I predict a riot’. (TAKE THAT, NCTJ! I REFUSE TO BE CLEAR AND CONCISE FOR ANYONE!)
As for me, I’m taking the University’s advice. Despite being spread out in all my glory, in an uncomfortable position, on slightly scratchy sheets, with the heating off and a bitter, decrepit, ex-tabloid hack as my bed fellow… it’s not as bad as everyone’s making it out to be.
In fact, I’m quite enjoying it.