You can only teach so much journalism in class. For years, I’ve been taking the pick of my students on work experience placements and being told: “I learned more there in three weeks than I did in three years at college.”
Of course you did, I say. Three weeks of doing is worth three years of listening in anyone’s money, certainly when it comes to getting a practical feel for the job. And especially if you are pressed to actually work - and not just make the tea.
Which is why I always stuck to certain guidelines when sifting the request from third years: only take the ones who sit at the front, turn up on time, every time, read the stuff on the reading list, hand their work in on time, every time - and get (by and large) the best marks.
I used to berate those who strolled in mid-lecture and ask at the close of play for notes. And I used to refuse entry on project work to those who drifted in at around the third week having decided their first choice was boring.
So imagine how I felt on Saturday when a mature MA student who drove every day from his home in Kent to Harrow for 9.30 to ensure he was ready for a 10am start on a previous course was the only one waiting for me for the start of the next.
Of the nine booked to study online journalism, another turned up at 10.20, another at 10.45 and two more at around 11.30. I asked each when they “thought the course was due to start?” and had little by way of reply when the chap from Kent questioned whether he was getting value for money as he waited for the course to begin four and three-quarter hours after he left home.
Perhaps they should all be offered work experience and given set tasks from day one. The almighty bollocking they’d get for daring to enter journalism without any regard for deadlines would be the best lesson they could have.