Interview // BA (Hons) Journalism Course Leader Vivienne Francis
Vivienne Francis recently joined the College as the new Course Leader for BA (Hons) Journalism, so we decided to find out what she will be bringing to the course and its students.
Our interview covered everything from biker gangs to kicking down barriers and the adrenaline buzz of the newsroom.
Tell us a bit about your work before coming to LCC.
I spent over ten years at the BBC working mainly in television news, current affairs and documentaries.
My journalistic experiences have been pretty eclectic – ranging from exposing un-vetted supply teachers to riding around London in pursuit of biker gangs; and from dodging bullets at a US hip-hop convention to investigating miscarriages of justice.
Since 2007 I’ve been working in higher education as a senior lecturer and programme leader on a suite of journalism courses at Middlesex University. Over the past few years I’ve also been working collaboratively with the media industry and third-sector organisations on student-focused projects.
For example, a multimedia project exploring identity with young Somali women; and a paid commission for students to make a series of films around the 2012 London Olympics.
How do you feel your previous roles will enhance the experience of your students?
I am able to apply more than a decade’s worth of industry experience and subject knowledge to shape curricula, deliver good quality of teaching and connect students with the profession.
I have a strong interest in opening up the industry, and pushing for greater equality of opportunity. It’s pretty shocking that someone’s class, physical ability, gender, or race can still be a barrier to entering and progressing within the media sector.
I’d like to think I equip my students with the confidence and ability to kick down these metaphorical and physical barriers.
How do you see the current relationship between professional journalism and journalism education?
The power of the blogger has blurred the lines of how journalism is defined and understood. Academia must play a role in reinforcing the professional standards of journalism so that it remains a trusted and respected institution.
Traditional skills like coming up with original stories, knowing your law, and being able to hold the establishment to account will always have a strong currency.
However, students also need to be able question, critique and redefine journalism itself and its institutions.
These are the things that will distinguish reliable, professional journalists from the plethora of online self-publishers.
Tell us something about your own time studying at LCC.
To be honest, as a student I came to LCC a bit on a whim. I had a keen interest in current affairs, but really didn’t know what I wanted to do.
One of my first assignments was to report on a London Underground press conference about fare rises.
I carefully crafted and asked my questions. Diligently wrote up my story. But this early assignment had many flaws, and I probably didn’t even get a pass. This was irrelevant. The excitement and adrenaline of working on this real life press event had me hooked on journalism.
Today, we put our current first year students through a similar real life reporting activity.
What are your aims for BA (Hons) Journalism?
I am a competitive person, so my ambition for the course is quite simply to make it the first choice destination for more and more students.
We aim to offer a course that’s in tune with current and future journalistic trends; is academically rigorous; and offers our students opportunities to connect with industry.
What is the course looking for in its students?
We are not necessarily looking for an A* applicant, what is more important is that we can see a passion for journalism.
This can be demonstrated through a love of writing and story-telling; being able to name and critique leading journalists; having completed work experience; or, by being involved on a student newspaper or blog.
Being naturally curious, being creative, and even having a little mischief also helps.
Tell us about how working on Artefact magazine fits into this course.
Artefact is the pinnacle of our students’ three years at LCC. They are able to take everything they have studied in their first two years and apply it to a real life editorial production.
The students are very much in the driving seat of Artefact – taking on the roles of editor, multimedia journalists, subeditors, section editors and so on.
There is a real adrenaline buzz in the newsroom when students are gearing up to publication day. The students give 101% to the magazine, and this is reflected in the content they produce.
It’s a high quality, professional publication – one that would not be out of place on the newsstands.
At the end of the year, students have a wealth of material for their portfolios, but are also able to demonstrate to prospective employers high-level leadership and team-working skills.
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