Bolton University’s, Beijing based MA Program in International Multimedia Journalism provides students a unique opportunity to equip themselves with essential multimedia journalism skills while studying in the stimulating city of Beijing. Senior Lecturer, Sharron Lovell, outlines the program and speaks with graduates to find out how the course has aided them in their current career paths. The one year program is currently accepting applications for late September 2015.
I recently caught up with some of our graduates to understand how the program had contributed to their various career paths, and where it has taken them.
As the journalism industry constantly evolves, we regularly tweak the theory and practice elements of our program. The lack of any set formula for journalism education is one of our biggest challenges as well as the very thing that makes teaching on the program so fresh and exciting each year.
The skills that todays journalists and storytellers need to meet the challenges and take advantage of new opportunities are evolving along with the industry itself. Oftentimes the tools and platforms students deliver their final projects on don’t even exist at the beginning of the course.
The Bolton University awarded MA in International Multimedia Journalism is based in Beijing, China is a collaboration between Beijing Foreign Studies University in China and the University of Bolton in the UK. For each cohort we aim to recruit a diverse mix of 16 Chinese and international students.
IMMJ graduate Patrick Carr, now the CEO of a China based documentary production company says. “More and more stories are coming out of China, it’s becoming a super power both politically and economically.”
He says there aren’t many better places in terms of finding a range of interesting and meaningful stories to cover. Patrick recently produced a documentary for National Geographic and is currently working on a long form documentary series about China for the BBC.
How the course works
The year long course begins in the final week of September, and comprises three terms.
In the first term, through workshops, seminars and short assignments students develop core multimedia skills needed to deliver short-form journalism stories on digital platforms.
We cover multimedia skills including writing, photography, audio, video, infographics, social media and editing without losing sight of fundamental news gathering skills.
Applying skills to real individual assignments from the beginning means that students immediately tackle the complexities of journalism – from navigating equipment to ethical codes and finding the best way to deliver a certain story, rather than relying on formulas.
Working with an international cohort, means students share the trends and tools being used their respective regions, as well as consider domestic and global media narratives. It’s an inspiring environment, and we find that when students are placed a little out of their comfort zone they push their own boundaries and produce exceptional work.
Mark Lajoie points out that 21st century digital journalists need a broad skills set, “You don’t have to be an expert at everything” he says “but you should be competent”.
Mark entered the program with professional web coding skills and a keen news sense – but lacking formal journalism training. The program helped Mark to build and fuse multimedia skills with his existing expertise. His final project was a self-coded multimedia reportage about suicide in China. This portfolio landed him a position as Multimedia Editor for The Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong a few months later. His projects at the Journal have since won multiple journalism awards.
In the second term, students undertake two long-form stories. They research project ideas, considering audience engagement and impact, ethics, risk assessment, as well as logistics before in depth reporting.
After the broad start in term one, we place value on channeling students in the directions they choose, we encourage them to do depth reporting that will specifically develop their areas of interest.
David Campbell directs the theory aspect of the IMMJ, designed to help students gain a critical understanding of contemporary trends in the new media economy. David is a globally renowned, key thinker in visual storytelling and has researched and directed the Multimedia Research Project for World Press Photo as well as served as the Secretary to the World Press Photo General Jury for the 2014 and 2015 contests.
Throughout the program four, week-long ‘intensive workshops’ are included, where students come togther to work on group field assignments. Top level foreign correspondents and local Chinese journalists from a variety of specialisms join to lecture or deliver workshops.
In the third and final term, students develop a guided major assignment. This facilitates them to fine tune skills and produce a single professional-grade journalism project or story that should serve as a portfolio and jumping board for their chosen career path.
“I really enjoyed the fact that the IMMJ had a strong focus on practical assignments, which pushed us to go out there to produce complete packages”. Says Vera Peneda. Vera’s motivations for study were to transition from traditional to multimedia journalism and learn new ways of storytelling for digital platforms. She now trains Latin American Journalists at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Mexico.
Vera says the IMMJ MA has been transformative – she’s currently working with coders, NGOs’, and displaced journalists to “develop multimedia projects in the frame work of digital security, data journalism, mobile journalism and freedom of the press, which is a career path that I had never considered before”.
Photographs: Sharron Lovell