For Kim Nursall, her “a-ha” moment as a first-year student at UBC’s Graduate School of Journalism came as she was in the midst of an in-class breaking news drill.
“I realized that writing a news story is kind of like putting together a puzzle — and I love puzzles — where you have a bunch of pieces that need to fit together in a certain way,” she recalls.
During the first year at UBC’s j-school, which offers the only post-graduate journalism degree program in Western Canada, students take a class in media law and are taught the fundamentals of news writing, reporting, and interviewing in the core Integrated Journalism course.
“Coming straight out of academia, it was a difficult transition into news writing,” Nursall (pictured above) admits. “But I’ve come to realize how critical it is to make your journalism accessible to wider audiences.” Nursall’s audience will expand this summer when she interns for the Vancouver Sun.
Professional internships between first and second year are a key component of the program, as they not only give students the opportunity to apply the skills they’ve spent the previous eight months acquiring, but a foundation for their post-graduation career plans.
In order to best prepare students for a career in journalism, and to help them choose among the more in-depth classes offered in second year, students in Integrated Journalism are taught across a range of media platforms: online, radio, video and print. They apply the platform-specific skills they’re taught by way of class assignments, three of which involve publication on the school’s news site, The Thunderbird.
Alberto Mendoza Galina (pictured below), who previously worked as a scientist in his home country of Mexico, found that the production of audio-visual slide shows and online features allowed him to understand, first-hand, how multimedia can be used to tell a truly compelling narrative.
“When you have different pieces like audio, video, written,” he says, you have “so many ways of attracting people” to the story. Mendoza Galina will spend the summer producing online multimedia packages for Vancouver-based research centres, showcasing their findings and engaging online users.
Lindsay Sample will spend the first month of her summer in the online video department of the New York Times, after which she’ll move to Dan Rather’s team at CBS Evening News, then to the CBC newsroom in Toronto.
But in addition to arming her with hands-on news production skills, the first year of j-school taught Sample that in order to become a journalist, she needed to believe she already was one.
“The confidence to walk up to someone and say ‘I’m a journalist’ was the most important skill that I learned during my first year,” says Sample. “I’m now able to take that confidence into interviews so that I can ask questions that elicit answers beyond just ‘yes’ and ‘no.’”
And when she walks into a newsroom this summer, she knows, she says, that “I’m a journalist.”
UBC journalism student Shannon Dooling and IRP fellow interned at New Hampshire Public Radio.
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