We teach them about real-life situations and real-life deadlines but how often do journalism students experience the adrenalin or buttock-tightening of knowing they are live-on-air on the internet? Not enough.
Nothing concentrates a man or woman’s mind so completely as the thought he or she will be cyber-hung in 10 minutes – to misquote Dr Johnson.
Coventry is hosting the annual ‘Play the Game’ Conference in the Cathedral and the University itself. Serious scholars and journalists from all over the world are here to discuss the big issues of sport-doping, cheating, match fixing and the whole underbelly of the modern business of sport. This is the sixth time they have scratched the sores that others might prefer to leave well alone.
Two hundred odd delegates in the very beautiful surroundings of Sir Basil Spence’s masterpiece, but why leave high quality thoughts for such a select audience?
We are not. Coventry journalism students (and one solitary LCC one) are reporting live or near live at Cutoday.wordpress.com. They attend all sessions, report them in print audio and (crossed fingers) video, right there in cyberspace. Want to hear or read David Goldblatt on the big round ball, or Declan Hill on match fixing? Then go to the site.
They’re learning to write against time: news, features, backgrounders, gossip, and so much more. Learning by doing. You can see fear in their faces when told to let the piece go to the subs and out to the world. One student took four hours of persuasion. His work is up on the site now – eventually. You can spot it as it is very carefully crafted and re-crafted and subbed.
Come out of closet, journalism educators! Trust your students. Try teaching journalism using the real world with the cordite of failure and the sweet smell of success. It’s what happens in real newsrooms. Daily.
I can just about remember…
John Mair is a senior lecturer in broadcasting at Coventry University. His colleague Andrew Noakes, who teaches automotive journalism, ‘is doing most of the hard work’.