last-minute FAQ about our first module

Next Tuesday at 5 pm the journalism course kicks off with the first meeting of our first official module, Digital Freelancing and Features with Arts Writing. It will run through probably June 12 with except for the first two weeks of April (spring break). I’m looking forward to introducing all the participants to each other and having a great term. Here is the last-minute FAQ:
How much work is in the module?

You’ll write about four or five stories or reviews plus some other exercises and a longer piece that you’ll work on throughout the course. There will also be reading of many articles by others. Most writing assignments will have to do with the arts but the longer story can be about any subject that interests you. The longer story is circa 1500-2000 tightly packed words – I just calculated the length of some of the model stories, so this is a more reliable guide than the 4000 I may have scared you with earlier. We’ll work on the long stories piece by piece and I will teach you the Wall Street Journal formula for in-depth story writing. We’ll also identify possible markets for your work and write query letters to editors.

What will we do week to week?

There are four elements to the course, not all of which will be present in any given week:

  • The didactic part: Reading and discussing examples of good writing, which I will assign; instruction on planning your own writing.
  • The writing workshop part: Everyone reads each other’s work and we discuss it, constructively; you also get separate feedback from the instructor. Learning how audiences see your work is a standard element of journalism and writing courses and a major benefit.
  • The computer lab part: Everyone learns WordPress, Twitter, basic Photoshop, or tries new things if you already know it. This is so you can push your writing out to audiences and/or maintain social media at work.
  • The guest speaker part: We have a number of guest speakers from the arts and arts writing who will be helping us to become more perceptive observers by guiding us through some of their work and experiences.

Can I do anything to prepare?

Interview yourself about what you’d like to write about (whether in the arts or not), books and articles you’ve enjoyed reading, writers you’d like to emulate, blogs you enjoy. Journalism is about specifics so if you start with yourself, be able to define some specific enthusiasms or curiosities. E.g. not just “I like reading” but “I like reading New Music Express” or books by Zadie Smith or graphic novels (formerly called comic books) or Vogue Italia or gardening instructions or train timetables or memoirs by prominent exiles or whatever. Come up with some possible long story subjects. We’ll start narrowing down your ideas in the second week.

What else should I know?

We’re not writing PR in this course. PR is a perfectly worthy thing to write, but we’re going to do journalism and that means we need to be free to incorporate critical opinions of the things we’re writing about. So for your coursework you need to steer clear of writing about things you or people close to you work on or participate in. Now is a good time to experiment with writing about things you aren’t involved in but are curious about. If you do PR in your day job or want to do PR, having done journalism will help you understand how critical people can be, and enable you to advise your clients better.

Is it too late to join the module?

Not yet, but almost. You need to fill out the MA programme application (lower right link here – it’s just two pages long but you do have to create a logon first), send me a writing sample and have a chat with me, because for bureaucratic reasons we would need to admit you to the whole MA programme even if you only take this module. So if you have been thinking about it, think faster!


study finance FAQ

As we get closer to our first real classes, people are starting to ask me questions about money – quite reasonably. Here is everything you wanted to know about finance that I have an answer to:

  • How much does UCS charge for the journalism degree?
    According to the postgraduate fees page, £5,490 in total for UK/EU students and £9,000 international. That is the 2012-2013 price and could change next year. For individual modules, £610 for UK and £1,000 international, according to the same page (on 18 Feb 2013).
  • What grants are currently available?
    If you are a UCS graduate, you get 10% off further study.
    If you work for UCS and your supervisor is OK with it, further study is free. (See Corporate Development Policy, section 7.1, Fee Waiver.)
    There are a few Postgraduate Solutions Bursaries nationwide.
    I will try to post any journalism prizes, competitions or internships on the @ucsjournalism Twitter feed as I hear of them. There’s one there now, from Vogue  for young writers.
  • When do students pay the fees?
    Once they have enrolled they will be issued an invoice. The invoice is payable in full within 30 days unless they wish to pay by direct debit.
    Alternatively, students can pay in monthly instalments by direct debit from March until June (I was asking about the single module for this term – D); a direct debit mandate is available on MyUCS (the internal computer system).
  • What about those who are working for UCS?
    They should complete a staff development form on MyUCS. A copy of the form should be sent to the Finance Department so they can amend the fee.

If you have other routine questions that I could get answered and put up here for all, please let me know. I haven’t got information on career development loans and other aspects of student finance – for those questions, students are advised to talk to the UCS Infozone which can tap expertise from Finance and Student Support.

One thing I can help with, though. If you have the possibility to get funding for a module or course from your employer (these are career skills, after all) or or you have found a way to request funding as part of a grant for e.g. community work or art or entrepreneurship – if you have located such an opportunity and you need a statement or want to talk over the application, please get in touch with me and I will try to help.

spring news


Hello, UCS journalism blog. After tending @ucsjournalism on Twitter, my own blog, and the project described below, it’s time to take care of this corner of the social media garden.

The last month has been very exciting for the journalism programme:

  • I taught the four-session, free journalism taster course, which got an enormous response. More than 70 people showed up for the first class, and about half of them were still around at the end. They were a wonderful group from all segments of the community, from sixth-formers to UCS students and graduates to people coming from Colchester and Lowestoft at the end of the working day. Quite a few were already working in media in some form.
  • The group spent a lot of time discussing social media and one of the activities we have planned to keep in touch is a shared Twitter feed, @PeopleofIpswich, which will be written by a new person each week starting on Fridays. This is a species of social media called rotation curation; see @PeopleofLeeds for a more advanced example. An excellent chance to shine light into corners of Ipswich and Suffolk that others may overlook, or just liveblog street fairs and wildlife sightings.

Also, I hear there is work afoot to restart the UCS student newspaper. So we’re moving ahead on many levels.