Saturday, 19 January 2008

MA/PGDip Journalism: Salford

I've been getting very excited this week by the prospect of Journalism. Out with writing for fun. In with writing for money. I'm putting together the final thoughts on an MA/PGDip in Journalism at Salford, starting September 2008.

With mediacity:uk open for business in 2011 (check progess of building works here), I hope that this degree will open up some major networking opportunities in journalism in Great(er) Manchester. Training is absolutely essential to becoming a journalist. You need the NCTJ qualifications - along with any subbing/layout, proofing and interviewing skills you've picked up along the way - to be taken seriously.

I did look at other MA Journalism providers in the North West. They included the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) in Preston, which has a very strong website, and an impressive Online Journalism course, and Sheffield Hallam, which came top of the NCTJ rankings recently. Both centres are highly rated and have very positive alumni progress stories.

I have to admit I was less sure about Salford. My initial interest was sparked by seeing that the MediaGuardian columnist and all-round media hero of mine, Steve Hewlett, was a Visiting Professor there. Fourth place in the above NCTJ rankings did Salford's reputation no harm either. But Salford itself, which as I learnt on a fact-finding pootle around Outer Manchester, is not the prettiest place in the world. Salford Quays, the apple in the architects' eyes, is an overwhelming sheen of glass and expensive lighting. The imposing Imperial War Museum and the Lowry, however, do a good job of outshining Salford's more outre architectural behaviour.

Staying in and around Manchester was a big draw, as I've settled in very well here in the leafy paradise of West Didsbury - The Chelsea of the North.

Moving to Manchester was a big step for me; goodbye farms and running over phesants, hello live poetry and big, big gigs. It's a wonderful, complex, dirty, beautiful contradiction of a place, and it's just inspired so many thoughts and ideas since moving in Feb 2006. The arts scene is fookin mint, which helps. Some of the amazing things I've already seen in Manchester include:

Paul Hartnoll (one-half of Orbital) playing electroacoustic techno with full band (electric harp, drums, flute, cello) to an assorted crowd of curious stoners, sharply dressed ex-ravers with kids in tow and beardy middle-aged nutters. All the better for taking place in that achingly divine structure, the Bridgewater Hall.

Finding out a guy I work with in Moss Side is a genuinely talented guitarist and songwriter - Kamal Arafa.

Seeing Whitworth Park in glorious sunshine, and knowing that Moss Side's not the rat-infested crack den the national media claim it to be.

And this, my personal favourite; you don't often see a company willing help itself to acres of bad press. Redstone, building student flats in Moss Side, wagered on a completion date of 2006, a splashed it across a big beige sign:

It is now 2008. Yes, they are still building. Yes, the sign is still there. I have thought about pointing it out, but I don't think they'd buy me a pint for doing so.

Also worth considering was Aphex Twin (9th December 07), playing a blinding set underneath Piccadilly Train Station as part of The Warehouse Project. It was freezing cold, with a smoking ban imposed, but brilliant all the same; the underground space set out for the gig was enormous, cavernous, with films, graphics and animations playing out the jagged brick walls. Luke Vibert weighed in with a funky IDM set which was also very good.

I may also have scored some work experience for the well-reviewed community magazine the Salford Star. To read editor Stephen Kingston's inspirational piece on Salford and community journalism, click here.


Andy said...

Hi Tom

Thanks for the link to the blog and the kind words about the website.

Good luck with the course - you'll be stressing final assignments about now will you? - hope all goes well.

Tom said...

I'm actually torn - I've been thinking recently, who ever heard of a journalist getting a job because they had an MA? Maybe the 4 month NCTJ courses are a better bet?

Andy said...

Hi Tom

That's an interesting one. Obviously an MA is useful - often more useful looking for those who want to retrain as a journalist.

The nctj is a tricky one. I would say that it depends on the kind of place you want to work. But perhaps you should drop Tom Duffy a line (

He's was a student on the MA online journalism course at the uni and has just finsihed the NCTJ fast track thing. He may have an interesting perspective