the beat and how to swing it

At big news organizations, many reporters and editors are subject specialists. The specialties demanded change all the time. In the straight-arrow early ’90s, I went to a party where someone introduced himself as “the sin reporter” [1] for his wire service. He covered US consumer goods and found himself writing mostly about alcohol and tobacco companies – it was an era of distillery takeovers and lung disease class-action lawsuits. Last year, as cannabis became legal and corporate in Colorado, the Denver Post appointed a marijuana editor.

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still true

… the leading critics of our news system are ill-advised in giving so much attention to the fact that the number of our newspapers is decreasing – a trend which has little or no effect upon the copious distribution of reliable news and virtually no relation to the real abuses of news handling in America. Besides, that decrease results from the operation of economic laws which would be about as hard to repeal as the schedule of tides at the Bay of Fundy.
   What we should concern ourselves with is the wide dissemination of the idea that the news is a set of counters in a “game” in which the people are to be excited at any cost …
Frank Luther Mott, The News in America,1952

autumn modules

IMG_5392These are the fall modules – still all part time as that is what the majority of the students want at present. Check the website or e-mail to learn more:

Reporting (20 credits)

Students become daily reporters in this module, reporting on government, police, crime, social services and sport. This is also the core module for writing on deadline, hard news style, critical thinking and news judgment. You will learn to tune in to news flows and cover a beat. Interview technique is refined.

This module runs Tuesday nights at UCS Ipswich. It is offered under the MA Journalism and as a result students should have a BA degree (any subject) or have worked in the media.

Research methods (20 credits)

The Master’s level demands in-depth research skills culminating in the dissertation and this module provides them. It covers economics, business, government, and demographics sources that are necessary for breaking news and investigative reporting. Online, paper and in-person methods are covered in depth. Students produce a detailed research paper on an area of interest, honing skills that can be used in other fields as well, and also present their findings in the form of a news story, practicing flexibility between different genres.

This module runs on Thursday nights at UCS Ipswich. It is offered under the MA Journalism and as a result students should have a BA degree (any subject) or have worked in the media.

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annals of boat anchors

UCS Journalism - ICR FM (16)

The “Battlestar Galactica” mixing desk at ICR, on which dozens of Ipswichers produced radio shows, has been decommissioned from the main studio and replaced by a new one a third the size, thanks to station manager Crank. It feels like the historical moment when we went from CRTs to flat screens. Work surface has been reclaimed for other purposes. Headphones and laptops can now be put directly on the table rather than balanced on the mixer (which probably didn’t help its condition).

The old desk would like to thank Gary Hooker and other station staff who maintained it with duct tape and number 8 wire. For the time being, it lies in state in the eqipment area of the office. UCS Journalism student Mira Shareif (photos) was among the last cohort to train and do whole shows on it. You can listen to recent ICR Friday breakfasts with Mira, UCS Journalism students Karen Harradine and Natasha Cornwell, UCS Film student Sam Mulder, ICR presenter Izzy Lane, UCS Journalism lecturer Diana ben-Aaron, and friends at Mixcloud. You can also catch Mira on her current show at Radio Castle.

UCS Journalism - ICR FM (14)

spring modules


This week we completed the first run of our editing and design module and this month we open one new module and one module repeating from last spring:

NEW Media Law, Ethics and Public Affairs, Wed and Thur evenings from Feb. 19. This course is taught by Paul Anderson, longtime subeditor for The Guardian and lecturer at two other journalism schools, and will use the latest, just revised version of Essential Public Affairs for Journalists, the Oxford/NCTJ text. It’s suitable not only for working journalists but also for anyone who is or wants to be a social media manager, and anyone who needs a better understanding of government for work.

Digital Freelancing and Features with Arts Writing, Tues evenings from Feb. 25. Once again we offer this all-in-one introduction to building your own specialist feature writing business, including coming up with story ideas, researching and interviewing, structuring the story, marketing it, and putting it online with multimedia. Students write short profiles and reviews and work on a long original piece that we’ll pitch to editors. We’ll meet artists and arts journalists and help cover the Pulse Fringe Festival later in the spring. This course is taught by Diana ben-Aaron, course leader for journalism and former reporter for Bloomberg News and experienced freelancer.

Modules give credit toward the MA Journalism and can also be taken one at a time on a CPD basis. For more information about the MA Journalism, see here (note the Masters scholarship for 2013 UCS graduates), for an application, see here, and to contact the course leader, e-mail


UCS Journalism seminar schedule

Below is the past, present and future of the UCS Journalism seminar schedule (updated after end of term).
All welcome; please mail if you want to be put on the mailing list for the exact time and room each week – generally however you’ll find us starting between 5:30 pm and 6 pm in Lecture Theatre 3 in the arts complex.


May 1 2013 – Lecture: Jon Kingsbury, NESTA
 “How Hyperlocal and Mobile Media Are Transforming News Consumption”


Sept 3 2013 – Film and discussion: All the President’s Men


Sept 11 2013 – David RandallThe Universal Journalist
“How to Be a Great Journalist – and Why Most Journalists Are Not”


Sept 17 2013 – Film and discussion: The September Issue
Discussant: UCS head of Arts Division Carol Brown


Sept 24 2013 – Telefilm and discussion: The Wire (excerpts from Season 5)
Mingling at Waterfront Gallery arts opening


Oct 1 2013 – No event. Students busy with Literary Ipswich activities


Oct 8 2013 – Dr. Jonathan Richmond, transportation/development studies/arts writer
“Approaches to Corruption and Mismanagement in Developing Countries:
A Briefing Book for Nonprofits, Aid Workers and Journalists”


Oct 15 2013 – Telefilm and discussion: Field of Blood
Discussant: Jonathan Buss, longtime managing editor of regional papers, Johnston Press, and earlier crime writer on the Brighton Argus
(now studying in UCS history department)


Oct 22 2013 – Telefilm and discussion: McCullin 
Discussant: Matthew Andrew, UCS MA Photography course leader


Nov 5 2013 – Telefilm: Field of Blood Part Two


Nov 12 2013 – Film and discussion: My Architect, documentary  by Nathaniel Kahn
Discussant: Dr. Fidel Meraz, UCS course leader for Interior Architecture and Design
Joint event with Interior Architecture and Design


Nov 19 2013 – No event. BBC-related speaker at all-university event this evening


Nov 26 2013 – Terry Hunt, editor in chief, East Anglian Daily Times & Ipswich Star
“Local Media – Past, Present and Future”


Dec 10 2013 – Film and discussion: Brazil, directed by Terry Gilliam
Discussant: Dr. Fidel Meraz, UCS course leader for Interior Architecture and Design
Joint event with Interior Architecture and Design

Jan 21 2014 – Film and discussion: Helvetica directed by Gary Hustwit
Discussant: Nigel Ball, UCS course leader for Graphic Design
Joint event with Graphic Design


from the trenches to the catwalk

Thanks to David Randall for speaking to us last night. He demonstrated interview techniques, rated and slated the writing styles of the national press, and performed journo standup (which we hereby declare as a genre).

Next week’s event is quite different – a viewing and chat about a documentary on the fashion publishing industry, directed by R.J. Cutler who also produced The War Room, a doc about Bill Clinton’s 1993 presidential campaign. Come prepared to debate questions like: Is fashion relevant to modern life? How is fashion publishing like and unlike other consumer publishing, for example gadget and games publishing? Is creativity a property of individuals or teams, and where is it located at Vogue? When is management functional and when is it sheerly the play of power? What does a magazine issue cycle have in common with a presidential campaign? How did the team make a documentary film of a workplace process stretching over weeks and months? If you’re reading this, please join us and tell your friends.

Tuesday, September 17, 5 pm (ish) to 7:30 pm, Lecture Theatre 3, Arts Building.
Carol Brown who is head of the Division of Art & Design and is building our first BA (Hons) Fashion course will be our discussant.

Here is a nice pdf of the blurry jpeg below:

film september issue

starting fall with a bang


UCS Journalism Seminar presents:

Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Robards
The true story of the reporters who “followed the money” to the White House

Tuesday 3 September, 5 pm (ish) – 7:30 pm / Lecture Theatre 3 (East Building)

The thing that never fails to amaze me whenever I watch All The President’s Men, and I’ve seen it several times now, is the way it manages to be a thriller without really being a thriller … throughout the majority of its running time, there is an air of tension and feeling of danger running through it that you don’t really shake off until the very last reel – even more remarkable in that we all know how this story ends! – Steve Grzesiak,

Also coming up:

How to Be a Great Journalist – and Why Most Journalists Are Not, a lecture by DAVID RANDALL, longtime editor and newswriter at The Independent on Sunday and other papers, author of The Universal Journalist
Wednesday, 11 September, 5 pm (ish) / Waterfront Lecture Theatre 2

Documentary on the preparation of Vogue’s September 2007 number. With Carol Brown, head of the School of Arts and former head of the fashion programme at University of Lincoln.
Tuesday, 17 September, 5 pm (ish) – 7:30 pm / Lecture Theatre 3 (East Building)

“… watching Coddington play yin to Wintour’s yang proves lively and instructive. All lasting magazines, including this one, reflect the battle between church and state, edit and advertising, art and commerce.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

For more information:

Click here for nice PDF of this blurry JPEG:

film ATPM

to tweet or not to tweet

This flyer comes from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet. The quality of the production is not at issue here; Hamlet isn’t one of my favorite plays but I thought this was amazing and would see it again. I particularly enjoyed Jonathan Slinger’s performance – he starts out looking like a young banker who’s having a bad day on the markets, and then progressively goes nuts – as well as the inventive masque at the end of the first part, and the stormy supermarket lighting. The point is the Twitter blurbs in between the newspaper quotes. Here. Let me type them out for you:




You might read the flyer without noticing the sourcing, and the typography certainly helps that. If you do notice the sourcing, “Twitter #RSCHamlet,” together with the published review quotes, implies that these phrases have already appeared in Twitter posts using that hashtag, yes? And yet I can’t find the quotes on Twitter under #rschamlet or rschamlet or even hamlet rsc, though there are some nice things posted. The RSC has a blog post with Storified tweets, including one from Nana, a former student of mine and fellow veteran of the Helsinki English Department Annual Globe & RSC Trip (hi Nana!) – again, very complimentary but not the ones in the flyer. “Totally mesmerising” is there, but not “mesmerising, powerful” or “totally awe inspiring.” Searching for the most distinctive words doesn’t work either: hamlet gripped, mesmerising brilliant (though those terms are applied to Globe Theatre productions, Game of Thrones, and Andy Murray), awe inspiring (many tweets about daredevils, none about Hamlet that I could find). Using awe inspiring rsc and awe inspiring hamlet to narrow it also didn’t work.

Did the tweets exist and then disappear? People do delete tweets, delete accounts, and older tweets eventually become difficult to access because of volume. Still, my searches find tweets dated before this production, so I have to conclude that either a) I am overlooking something that someone will tell me about by e-mail (comments are blocked till I find a good spamfighting widget); b) the RSC unluckily picked comments from three different people who weren’t committed to leaving a record; or c) these comments never appeared on public Twitter in the form on the flyer, but were just made up or cobbled together. This does not increase my already fragile trust in social media as the press of the future.

The economy of full-length reviewing has also become blurry. There is a practice here and now of theatre owners and promoters asking for students to write reviews “for the website” in exchange for free tickets. I understand students wanting to do them for the tickets or the experience, but I fail to see how those could do the judgment job we’ve always expected of reviews, and how any theatergoer would not mentally class them as just more advertisements. They are not journalism. I can adopt the modern position that journalism is increasingly becoming something one does rather than a professional identity and a permanent job. But the essence of the activity of journalism is writing something that is accurate, efficient and interesting to read – and, crucially, isn’t owned by the people you’re writing about.

Hamlet plays in Stratford-upon-Avon until September 28 and then I hope it gets a West End run. Really, you should go see it if you get the chance.