A few words of advice for anyone starting to study journalism

It’s a big day today.

For me. But more importantly, for dozens of students here at our university, and for hundreds more across the country.

As I embark on my first full academic year as a lecturer, they’re starting a new chapter of their lives: as journalism students.

So what should we tell them on their first day?

There are so many things you’d like to say, so many words of wisdom and reassurance to share, so many tips to pass on.

A tweet from Independent editor-at-large Amol Rajan aimed at all new first years took my breath away at the weekend.


And then I saw a brilliant, brilliant series of quotes from Professor Brian Cox – another university lecturer – on knowledge and evidence in the Observer.

The point is for one reason or another many people don’t know how to change their mind. The whole point of science is that you have to be prepared – and delighted – to change your mind in the face of new evidence. That is the message that should be taught in schools.

When it comes to quotes about journalism, a decent place to start is a new column in Press Gazette by the author of one of the best books about our profession, The Universal Journalist writer David Randall.

At the end of the last academic year, as we said goodbye to our third years, I pulled together some of my favourites in a blog that stressed the importance of getting out from behind a desk, a phone or a laptop and engaging with the real world.

Today, my advice to those at the opposite end of their uni careers won’t be too different.

Over the next three years, we’ll be teaching and training our students to use a dazzling array of technology – from mojo kits to mics and Facebook Live to faders.

But the most important pieces of equipment are the ones they were born with: two eyes, two ears, a nose, a mouth and a mind.

If they can use their eyes to be observant and nosy, their ears to listen with empathy and imagination, their noses to detect trouble and bullsh*t, their mouths to win trust and their minds to exude emotional intelligence, they’ll be journalists to make us very proud indeed.


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