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Comment: Response to Kelvin MacKenzie on shutting journalism colleges

Media law, 100 words a minute shorthand and how to shoot and edit a video, these are just some of what I probably would not have learned in my first month on a local paper.

But according to former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, writing for the Independent this morning, “there’s nothing you can learn in three years studying media at university that you can’t learn in just one month on a local paper”.

He believes aspiring reporters should start on their local newspaper at 18 and be on a national by 21. Perhaps he is unaware local newspaper editors, radio stations and TV newsdesks are not exactly falling over themselves to take on teenagers with no training.

Learning on the job may be a highwire act but it will be a lesson you will never forget compared with listening to ‘professor’ Roy Greenslade explaining why Wapping was a disgrace. No amount of academic debate is going to give you news sense, even if you have a PhD. It’s a knack and you’ve either got it or you haven’t.

There are more than 80 schools in the UK teaching journalism. These courses are make-work projects for retired journalists who teach for six months a year and are on a salary of £34,000- £60,000. Students are piling up debts as they pay to keep their tutors in the lifestyles they’re used to. I’d shut down all the journalism colleges today. If you want to be a print journalist you should go straight from school and join the local press. You will have a better career and you won’t owe a fortune. Good luck.

This is not the first time MacKenzie has rubbished journalism courses.

The Independent’s full story is at this link.

So, fellow journalism graduates, are you shouting at your computers/phones/iPads yet? Or has MacKenzie got it right?
Please comment and let us know what you think.

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  • Learning on the job might be a highwire act, where you often fall off. Perhaps listening to a “professor” might help you avoid riting complete crap about a famous pop singer having sex with rentboys or fabricating interviews with Simon Weston, or sending your reporters to break into psychiatric hospitals or claiming that football fans had pickpocketed the dead at Hillsborough football stadium … I could go on …

  • McKenzie has a point, but he’s being so harsh it’s got lost somewhere. There are a lot of media studies/journalism degrees that aren’t, and don’t intend to be, vocational (they’re more about media theory etc.) and so don’t prepare students to work on a paper or magazine.

    But those courses that are vocational, especially the NCTJ-recognised ones, do teach skills it would be a waste of time trying to catch someone up on in a busy newsroom, and it would be a sad loss to see those colleges shut down. I suspect McKenzie is out of touch and thinks there’s much more on-the-job training than there actually is.

    On the other hand, I know several journalists who’ve succeeded without any relevant qualifications, and do think tenacity is still a journo’s biggest asset.

  • Pingback: Independent adds attribution to controversial MacKenzie article | Journalism.co.uk Editors' Blog()

  • Pingback: Kelvin MacKenzie sparks big debate on journalism training | Journalism.co.uk Editors' Blog()

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