Can Studying Journalism Help Travel Bloggers?

I’ve been studying journalism for 3 months now but I’m starting to wonder if the course will ever help me to be a travel writer?

Journalism is a strange topic to study. It feels a bit like reading a text book to become a chef. Is it really something that can be taught in a classroom?

Journalism is something you learn by getting out there and doing it, learning from your mistakes and just giving it a go. It’s a bit like travelling in that sense; no matter how many tips, advice articles or travel guides you read, the best travel knowledge is the knowledge you pick up through travelling.

Times are tough and in a competitive industry like travel journalism, having a qualification behind you can’t hurt…but can it help?

The qualification is almost compulsory for anyone wanting to be a newspaper journalist reporting crimes and local events, but what about me? I want to be a travel writer and can studying journalism help me?

I’m only a couple of months into my course so I don’t know the answer yet but here’s how it’s helping me so far and there’s some skills that can I can transfer onto my blog.

Tight Writing

This is something that all writers and bloggers should work on. It’s basically the skill of getting as much information into as few words as possible. It teaches you not to waste a word and make every phrase work hard. This really applies to online journalism where readers want their information quickly and without a long, rambling speech.

Investigating

As a travel blogger, I never really feel the need to ‘investigate’. I write about the things around me that I enjoy but I rarely dig below the surface to see what else there is. Digging out the dirt is the sole purpose of most journalists and it’s something we’re encouraged to do. We’re told to chat to everyone we can, taught how to make them feel comfortable enough to give away that big secret and taught to look in every nook and cranny to find it.

I’ll no longer be satisfied with descriptive prose about ‘beautiful rolling mountains’, I’ll now be looking for something extra.

I don’t mean I want to catch people out and unveil their nasty truths; I’ll just be looking for something a little more interesting than the beautiful pictures and wax lyrical descriptions the guide books provide us with.

Some other things I’ve noted since doing my journalism course:

People take me more seriously

When I tell people I’m studying journalism they know I mean business. They know I want to write professionally and this ultimately leads to more opportunities and makes it easier to get started.

It’s all about who you know

This is a really depressing fact but it’s so true. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best writer in the world, if you don’t know anyone who can give you a little leg up then you’re going to be struggling on the bottom rung of the ladder for a long time. I’m not saying it will be impossible, it’ll just take a bit longer.

The people who are doing well on my course have got work experience placements at the top newspapers and magazines and networked, networked and networked some more. The same applies for travel blogging; since moving to London and socialising with other bloggers I’ve had more opportunities come my way and I’ve learnt so much about the industry.

The art of writing for online audiences is changing so quickly, is there really anything we can study in order to be better at it? Google offer SEO courses and I’m sure I’m not the only one with an email junk box full of ‘Increase your traffic with this simple trick…’

Is it time we got out of the classroom and into the real world and learnt from real life experiences? Possibly. But I’m hoping that a qualification will help push me up to the first rung of the ladder.

I’m also working as an editorial intern with Gap Daemon which is giving me more experience and skills in the industry. I’ll be talking more about what I’m actually doing later in the week. I also have a guest post from Will Peach from Gap Daemon about how other people in my situation can make the most out of travel internships.

 

TheTravelHack

Monica is the founder and editor of The Travel Hack. She began the blog in 2009 when she left the UK to travel around Asia and Australia for two years. She's now a professional blogger and has travelled around the world in search of stylish adventure travel. Monica has recently had her second baby and is determined to prove that travelling with a baby is possible!

SHOWHIDE Comments (15)
  1. I have a degree in journalism and worked as a reporter and advertising copy write way back when. I believe that this combo has helped me a lot.

    To answer your question–can journalism be taught in a classroom? Yes, I suppose, but nothing beats having to write for a newspaper under extreme pressure. That’s where you learn how to be concise and creative. In a classroom, there’s less pressure–unless the prof knows how to simulate real-life reporting and writing/editing situations.

    In any case, I’m sure it’ll be helpful to you. Best of luck!

    1. Thanks Lisa, I’m really glad to hear that the skills you learnt have helped. I must admit that after reading your blog, I did wonder if you’d done something similar. I think you can always tell because there seems to be a bit more depth and research from people who have worked in journalism.
      I’m finding the classroom lessons tough because it feels like they’re beating any kind of creativity out of us so I’m looking forward to getting into the real world and doing my own thing 🙂
      Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. I did Broadcast Journalism at uni and to be quite honest, in the working world, I’ve never even been asked whether I have a journalism qualification. I’ve found it’s all about examples of my work and “who you know not what you know”. However, it taught me a lot of the skills I have today with regards to filming, video editing, making podcasts etc. I was also put on quite a few work experience placements with the BBC. For me personally, I like having a degree under my belt.

    As for writing, the longer I’m in this business of online journalism, the more I’m learning about writing and the more I look back on old posts and think “what did I write that for?” I don’t want to see flowery words or vague descriptions anymore, I want nitty gritty details about a place.

    1. I think having a degree is pretty important. It really shouldn’t be because the only thing I learnt at uni was how to drink my own weight in Tequilla but people definitely take you more seriously when you have one.

      I’m glad I’m doing my course because I never would have moved to London and got the job I’m doing now otherwise but the amount I’m paying for the course would have kept me travelling for at least 6 months so I can’t help but wonder if that would have been better experience….?

  3. Hey Monica, as you know I took the same course back in 2009 and had, and still have, the same concerns. I think with News Associates they do need to expand the course to take into account online writing, get SEO experts in, teach how to write for an internet audience etc.

    The reality is that every newspaper has an online presence and that will only continue to grow. For example my local rag, The Surrey Mirror doesn’t seem to upload stories daily; they only do so after they have been printed. I understand why, they want people to buy the paper, but a weekly paper is soon old news.

    Journalism needs to adapt to the internet age.

    1. Thanks for your comment Mike. I’m not blaming News Associates for the fact we’re taught nothing about writing for the web, it’s more the NCTJ. News Associates just teach us to pass the exams but the NCTJ don’t even seem to understand how Twitter works. Madness. I’m sure they’ll catch up one day but until then they’re producing a load of journalists that only have 3/4 of the skills they need.

  4. I feel you. I’ve been studying journalism for over a year now and it is pretty much doing it, learning from your mistakes and keep practicing. In the Netherlands (where I’m from) the only thing they tell you is to start working in the business as soon as possible. The best is to start when you’re still in school, so you build up a network, and learn even quicker.

    On the other hand if I didn’t study journalism I would have never start blogging. They taught me to how to write for a special group and think about a real concept. But there are more than enough people who just start and find their way by trying a lot.

  5. I feel you. I’ve been studying journalism for over a year now and it is pretty much doing it, learning from your mistakes and keep practicing. In the Netherlands (where I’m from) the only thing they tell you is to start working in the business as soon as possible. The best is to start when you’re still in school, so you build up a network, and learn even quicker.

    On the other hand if I didn’t study journalism I would have never start blogging. They taught me to how to write for a special group and think about a real concept. But there are more than enough people who just start and find their way by trying a lot.

    P.s. I filled in a wrong link in my last reply. Fail…

  6. This is really interesting – I was lucky enough to land a journalism job straight out of university (my degree was in Politics) at a national paper. But after ten months I realised I needed to get the proper training if I was ever going to able to progress in my career. I was covering ‘light’ news, but without shorthand and media law, my editors wouldn’t let loose on serious stories.

    After lots of indecision, I finally decided to quit my job back in March to travel for the next year and try and expand my freelance portfolio as I go. I’ve got a place on Falmouth’s international journalism post-grad course (starting september 2014) but I’m in two minds over whether I will take up the place.

    On the one hand I feel like I DO need the hard skills taught on the course (media law – plus multimedia journalism skills in TV and radio) that would help me to work as a journalist abroad in the future.

    On the other hand, the course cost a fortune and I’m just not sure the skills I gain justify spending that kind of money…

    Victoria recently posted…Cheeky’s al fresco diner: The best food in Marrakech

    1. Congrats on being accepted on the course Victoria. It looks like a great one to do and Falmouth is such a gorgeous place, I would love to have studied there.
      I think it depends what you want to do in the future. If you’d like to work in professional journalism then I would definitely say you should do it. It’s so tough to find work in journalism so it will definitely help with job applications and give you some solid skills.
      At the time of writing this blog post I didn’t realise just how much I learned from the course but now I can see I really got a lot out of it. I would say the main thing was learning to write quickly. We worked on was writing news stories in 20 minutes. It takes a lot of practice but I find now I can write stories, articles and blog posts so much faster. Shorthand and the law side of things is also really handy to have but so boring to learn.
      I was about half way through my course when I realised I would never work in print media and although the course was called ‘multimedia journalism’ it was really old-school and mainly focused on local print journalism.
      I would definitely say you should do it but make sure you’re doing the right course for you. When I chose my course I just went for the ‘best’ but if I did it again I would do online or magazine journalism.

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