Why the journalism MA is still important

graduates, degree, postgrad, university, Gina Clarke, Kettle Mag
Written by academy

The Master of Arts degree in journalism should be sacrosanct in the industry, and certainly regarded as a prestigious award. It takes a year of studying the insides of a field which constantly moves the goal posts, especially in recent years.

No longer is a journalist a hack, trench coat and pen and paper at the ready, 50p in hand for the dash to phone box. Journalists now have to contend with digital media, accompanying words with images, hashtags and captions.

Multi-media has become the norm – after all why have a bloke for audio and TV if you can just rip the audio feed from one as you do the other, right?

Wrong. Journalism is not just about soundbites and headlines. The art of interviewing is a skill which is even more important when you think most of the time a journalist is interviewing, it's probably not something that the other person is enjoying. Gaining those precious few seconds with them takes tenacity, panache and ingenuity. 

Reading body language, even over the phone, is a key skill in the armoury of someone dealing with the media. And if you don't undergo training and get it wrong on the job, chances are it will be the last job you have in an environment where your name still means everything.

Going in the right direction

You, and only you, are accountable for your work. Your children will be able to see that interview you did with the Z-list celebrity for decades to come, so every nuance, spelling mistake and emphasis counts.

Any journalism degree worth its salt will teach and train you how to both write compellingly and for the right medium and audience which really is the key thing these days. Whether it's a BuzzFeed top 10 or an analysis in the Times, the chance to practice and gain feedback from both peers and tutors is invaluable – not to mention that 15,000 word essay at the end of it which really does make you an expert in your field of choice.

For students wanting to go on and teach, an MA is now only the first requirement, with an emphasis on working towards a PhD usually a non-negotiable part of a job advertisement of any good university. With academia now held in such high regard, in my opinion it really is the only option for gaining contacts and experience in the industry these days. 

The days of making a brew as a work experience and going on to write a column are gone, now you need something else to stand out from the crown. And the skills you learn on a journalism MA will point you in the right direction.

Gina Clarke is a freelance journalist and a recent graduate of the MA Journalism programme at the University of Lincoln.

You can read the piece advocating for the NCTJ alternative here.