Friday, 20 April 2012

How to become an education journalist - previewing Masterclass 48 at MMJ

The education beat is a central one.

Education is such a crucial part of the lives of every individual, and of every society’s attempts to ensure it has a bright future, that it’s a very lively and important specialism.

What I’ve discovered as I’ve researched this topic is that education journalism is taken much more seriously, and given far greater importance, in the USA than it is in the UK.

In the former there are organisations dedicated to helping journalists master this central beat. In the UK there are no such outfits.

And my impression is that while education correspondents/editors are seen as being in the top rank of reporters in America, in the UK they are not.

The resources available for those who would like to follow the education beat are far more numerous in the US than in the UK, so while I have tried to balance the content of this masterclass to reflect the fact that MMJ’s readership is more or less equally split across the Atlantic, I’ve found far more resources – and richer information – in America.

That’s something I aim to work at correcting over time. Which means that for now this has to be something of a work in progress. It's not currently as comprehensive as I'd like these looks at specialisms to be, but I'll work on it.

If you can help with any advice for aspiring education journalists, or links to resources, that would be great.

You can reach me @andybull on Twitter.

Anyway, for now, here’s what we’ll be looking at here.

We’ll cover:
  • Why be an education journalist?
  • How to get in to education journalism
  • How to find, sell and tell education stories
  • What education journalist need to know
  • Star performers you can learn from, and
  • Where to study education journalism

Next:  Why be an education journalist

Friday, 13 April 2012

How to become a music journalist - previewing MMJ Masterclass 47

First some words of warning

Becoming a music journalist is the goal of many. Alongside film.

Reviewing gigs and new releases. and interviewing stars sounds great. And it can be.
But if you want to approach music journalism as a career, and develop your skills as a specialist, there’s a lot you need to do, and to know, if you are to make it.
I mean, you wouldn’t think you could become a political journalist without knowing a great deal about politics – about the people, parties, polices and plenty about political history.
Without that background knowledge you can’t be a competent political reporter.

Likewise, you can’t be a professional music journalist without knowing a great deal about your subject.

A lot of what you need to do to make it is covered in the general introduction to specialisms, linked to here.
You’ll also find a lot of relevant material in the masterclass on celebrity, showbiz and arts reporting which is here for subscribers and will be making a brief appearance outside the paywall in a little while.
We also cover practical guides to doing some of the things that are staples of music journalism – writing a review and conducting an interview – on pages 207-8, 320 and 335-6 of the print and ebook edition of MMJ, and in the companion units on this website.

So what are we going to do here?

We’ll look specifically at several things:
  • How to get in to music journalism, drawing on the experiences of a number who have made it
  • What you need to know to master music as a specialism
  • Where you can get published right now
  • How to sell to editors and tell music stories
  • What’s wrong with music journalism
  • Building a career in music journalism
  • Star performers you can learn from, and sources of great music journalism you can use to see how the best do it
  • Study it – universities that run specialist music journalism courses

Next: how to become a music journalist

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Introducing the MMJ journalism careers programme: How to choose a specialism

The next 12 MMJ masterclasses are in-depth looks at some of the most popular journalistic specialisms. 

Here's a preview of a general introduction to the subject of switching from general reporting to a defined beat.

For most newly-qualified journalists, general reporting is their starting point – unless they choose the subbing and production route
If you want to remain a reporter long-term it’s often a good idea to specialise: to choose an area of news that you cover intensively and on which you become a trusted expert and authority.
There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that specialist knowledge, and the provision of reliable, authoritative information, has a value above that of general news.
As we are seeing, it is almost impossible to get people to pay for general news online. In the UK, it is very hard to make general news pay. You have the massively well-resourced BBC pumping out a huge volume of general news, without needing to heed the commercial realities that other, private media outfits are governed by.
So, as a reporter, you need to be a purveyor of information that is valuable to the audience you are targeting – perhaps for their work, or for informing commercial decisions that they must make. Or, it may be information that gives them depth of coverage in an area of interest to them: a hobby or pastime perhaps.
The rise in social media has further devalued the work of the general reporter.
Because so much general news coverage is contributed by citizens in some way – whether through their eye-witness stills or video, or through celebrities tweeting what is happening to them – the general reporter sees their stock falling.
We  look at a number of very different specialisms in this run of masterclasses. The first four in this list are new, and will be going live between April and May 2012. The rest are being made available once again outside the MMJ paywall for a short period. As they go live the links below will work
Here's what we cover:
  • Technology
  • Music
  • Education
  • Religion
  • International Journalism
  • Political Journalism
  • Sport
  • Celebrity, Showbiz and Arts reporting
  • Business and Financial Journalism
  • Travel Writing
  • Science, Health, Environment
  • Fashion
Each masterclass will remain free for about a week after the link goes live, but will then be available only to subscribers.
To get access to them all for good you need to subscribe to MMJ. You do that by buying the textbook, in either paper or Kindle form
There are loads of other specialisms we could cover. But whatever the specialism you choose, there are general principles of how to be a good specialist reporter that we can apply across the board.
So in this general guide to specialisms we’ll start off by looking at how to be a specialist reporter, and I’ll link to the areas of learning in previous masterclasses, and in the book version of MMJ and the companion website, that give you the general approach to take and the tools to use.
The last five linked masterclasses, Numbers 22 to 25 are particularly relevant, because they show you how to apply specialist reporting to the modern media world.
A good specialist reporter is locked in to social media. Just look at how many stories in tabloids are sparked by a celebrity’s tweet. Tabloids don’t always tell readers that they are sourcing so many stories on Twitter, but it has become a vital hunting ground for the showbiz specialist reporter.

Next: How to choose your specialism