In the first of our regular blog series New Course Discourse exploring LCC’s exciting new undergraduate and postgraduate courses, we speak to Programme Director in Journalism and Publishing Simon Hinde about MA Arts and Lifestyle Journalism.
Can you start off by telling us about the decision to create this course?
The point about creating this MA is that arts and lifestyle journalism are important and growing parts of the journalistic landscape.
Lots of newspapers have got arts and cultural supplements, there are specialist channels like Sky Arts, it’s a main plank of BBC Radio 4, BBC Three, BBC Four, there are lots of websites. There’s a big and growing appetite for it.
We know that lots of undergraduate students that we’ve talked to are very interested in this area, yet there is really at the moment only one postgraduate course in the country covering it. In the States there are quite a lot, so it seems a shame that there aren’t more opportunities in the UK.
We are also a design and media college in an arts university; it seems like a very natural thing for us to do, because we have the expertise and the history to do it well.
It’ll allow us to help journalists develop not just the skills to do arts and lifestyle journalism really well, but also the ethical understanding about things like freedom of speech and the appropriate way to deal with public relations people – which is not necessarily known by a lot of people who do this work at the moment because they come from very varied backgrounds.
It’ll allow us to create a body of professionals who do this kind of work to the highest professional and ethical standards.
What can students expect from the course?
We take a very broad view of what arts and lifestyle might mean – deliberately broad – because I think you can do interesting journalism about just about anything. I don’t want to restrict it to just fine art.
It could be art, theatre, film, music, television, food, travel, but the point is to do high-quality, interesting journalism in those fields, not just turn over trivial, easy and superficial work. The point is to go into it in depth, to have a theoretical underpinning that will allow students to succeed.
The course will also be highly practical. Each student, during the course, will develop a journalistic project they want to complete as part of their final major project – a substantial piece of journalism in an appropriate field of arts and lifestyle.
That might be writing a long-form piece of journalism on something, it might be making a radio documentary or a film documentary, or it might be doing something web-based, but it will be something that has got real substance and depth to it on a topic of their choosing.
I would hope that the piece of work that the student produces would be a piece of work that could be published. That would be the aspiration, that they would be producing high-quality, professional-standard work that they could then take to a publisher or broadcaster and get disseminated.
What are the main differences between undergraduate and postgraduate study in journalism?
One of the shifts, I think, is that you are to a much greater extent developing your own practice. Obviously at undergraduate level you’re learning the tools of the trade, but everyone kind of does the same thing to some degree. As you move into the third year, you start to develop your own voice, your own style, your own interests.
In postgraduate study you take that further, so that you develop your own journalistic way of addressing a particular subject, and your own subjects you want to address. There’ll be a bit more depth and breadth, you’ll attack things on a greater scale.
Rather than doing a 2,000-word piece, that might be typical at undergraduate level, you’ll be doing a 10,000-word piece, or a book. It’s scale and depth that are the distinguishing features.
Why should people study journalism here at LCC?
Obviously we’re based in London, which is a major arts and cultural centre, but it’s more about being in this University, where there’s just incredible breadth of knowledge and expertise in the arts and in design. There are people all over the place we can bring in who know about this subject from different points of view.
We have a collaborative project as part of this course, and we’ll be able to collaborate with people who are designers, photographers, fine artists, sound artists, whatever it might be. It’s an opportunity you don’t get at other institutions.
In terms of facilities, the College has industry-standard radio studios, a brand new TV and video studio opened at Christmas, and a fully-equipped newsroom.
The department has also just launched Artefact, a new magazine which is very stylish and design-conscious and itself has a lot of coverage of arts and culture. It’s written and edited by students and appears twice per term in the autumn and spring terms, with additional topical special editions.
What will this course be looking for in its applicants?
I’m very open as to the kind of people who apply. We’ve had interest from a very interesting and diverse range: working journalists who want to specialise in the field of arts; people who’ve done an undergraduate course in journalism and now want to take it on – both to specialise in arts but also to do journalism to the depth and scale that postgraduate study allows; people who are doing a first degree in an arts subject – fine artists for example – who are thinking they would like to develop the communicative side of their practice.
Maybe they want to be fine artists but also to write about fine art, maybe they want to move away from being a practising fine artist and to be a journalist about fine art. They’ve got all that practitioner knowledge and they want to communicate that to an audience – that’s really interesting.
And then we’ve had people who are on more theory-based courses – cultural studies or media communications-type courses – who are interested in developing their theoretical knowledge into something more interfacing.
What are the career opportunities for students graduating from this course?
There are lots of newspapers with arts and cultural supplements, there are specialist broadcast programmes, news programmes have arts correspondents.
There are specialist arts channels that want programmes made for them, like Sky Arts, there’s reporting on arts – a lot of newspapers have arts reporters – and there are specialist magazines and websites about art and culture.
Institutions like art galleries all have their own magazines, so there are lots of opportunities there.
Moving slightly beyond the field of journalism, the skills that you develop as a journalist – the skills of communication and storytelling – are very valuable in public relations and marketing, and there are companies that specialise in those areas for the arts.
Becoming freelance as a writer or broadcaster in these areas is also a very popular and growing thing.