OK there isn’t actually going to be a journalism GCSE, or at least I don’t think there is – but I think Journalism, or at the very least standard journalism techniques should be taught all through school.
One of the key skills you need as a journalist is being able to sift through huge amounts of information to find the story. It’s about being able to take a 300 page report and find the one line that was hidden, the line that will make the top story in the next bulletin or the front page of the paper.
It isn’t an easy skill, it’s certainly a lot harder to perfect than I made it sound above. In journalism being able to interpret and sort large amounts of information is a considerable amount more important than being able to spell – that’s what spell-check, dictionaries and copy editors are for.
I finished school with a few pretty awful GCSEs and a GNVQ – I wasn’t a great student – but have more than made up for it since entering the working world.
Since starting on this path of journalism I’ve been on dozens of courses to improve my journalism instinct, improve writing skills and learning when to spot a duff story (among others).
Key to all of these though is the ability to spot an idea, to find a story and most importantly to cut the chaff.
Google is part of the chaff – but it can also be the wheat. Where on one side Google is a brilliant source of information, a great way to enhance a story with facts and figures – it’s also an evil source of mis-information, a great way to enhance a story with WRONG facts and figures (if your lazy).
Before I go on – I know the information isn’t actually on/in Google itself, I understand it’s a search engine.
When I was at school and was told to write a report on a subject I had no idea how to start. I didn’t know which books to look in or how to assemble the information into something meaningful.
If I was at school now that would be a breeze.
A professor at the University of Brighton has described Google as ‘white bread for the mind’ basically saying that it’s filling enough but it doesn’t really have the nutrients.
Tara Brabazon explained that “We need to teach our students the interpretative skills first before we teach them the technological skills. Students must be trained to be dynamic and critical thinkers rather than drifting to the first site returned through Google.”
This is a basic journalism skill – so if school newspapers were encouraged, if students were trained in journalism skills – if they were encouraged to think critically and objectively – they would be able to make better use of services like Google and Wikipedia and not just take the first site as fact.
It would also encourage more debate, more political interest and hopefully in turn lead to a more fulfilling society.