If nobody speaks of remarkable things…..

At the AMPA event on July 27th I’m hoping to start a debate on what we as journalism and production teachers do to register just what is going on when we run news days or weeks or programme simulations. Whatever we call them they are a vital teaching and learning tool for us and our students.
We all know that so why do we need to talk about them? Well, like so much of what we do as practitioners the focus is on the moment – finding stories, writing them, clipping interviewees and getting the item on air – and it appears we have little time to reflect. In fact, as well know again, we and our students do reflect but often we do it alongside the next activity or outside class times.
To borrow a phrase from our less-practice inclined colleagues we need to ‘capture the activity and its outcomes’. Students really value these experiences as being as close as they can get to being in a real working newsroom while still in the relative safety of the classroom. But just what does that mean if we (apologies for this) ‘unpack it’?
What are we teaching them in terms of working under pressure, operating within groups, managing difficult colleagues, dealing with their own anxieties and confidence issues? All of those are features of a news day and come on top of the news and production skills they are learning and polishing, ensuring accuracy and balance, dealing with any ethical issues that arise and ensuring they deliver.


Over the years we’ve become so practised at all this stuff that we barely know we’re doing it and it certainly goes unnoticed by academic colleagues. What I would like us to do as a group is take a bit of time to talk about why these ‘real’ experiences are important and to learn from one another about what – if anything – we do to recognise the true depth of the intellectual activities involved. In short it’s time to stop hiding our light.
While we’re at it (or at least while I’m on my soapbox) there is another area linked to this which again goes unmarked. Which of us hasn’t dealt with questions from former students about stories they are working on wherever they’re employed? It may be a simple request for a contact or it could be asking for advice on a legal problem or an ethical issue. Whatever, we respond as well as responding to queries on career moves or more personal topics. It’s all in a day’s work but if we don’t value that we can’t complain if nobody else does.

Bob Calver.

1 thought on “If nobody speaks of remarkable things…..

  1. An interesting debate and one that needs to be initiated though I am not sure I agree with the claims for “realness” or “authenticity” that are banded about when referring to live projects/live briefs or simulations. As it happens I am labouring over an article on this very subject that questions the efficacy of attempting to replicate professional practice within an academic setting. I am not saying we shouldn’t do it, or that it isn’t an excellent way of getting students to engage with their practice. I am though, suggesting that the are hasn’t been properly theorised and that we may not be doing quite what we think we are doing. If I thought there was going to be a real, in depth debate (a proper one with a panel dedicated to the topic) I would definitely attend the next AMPA meeting. Until then I will leave you with something to mull over. Possibly one of the only papers I have found which explores, or begins to explore the issues around the recontextualising of professional practice within academia. Enjoy!

    Colwell, S., 2014. Scriptwriting as pedagogy: vocational education for media production and the recontextualisation of practice. Journal of Media Practice, 15(2), pp.107–122.

    As I say, I think this subject is worthy of a symposium of it’s own!

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