Wednesday, 10 November 2010

You Should Have Seen It Coming, Cameron...

Urbis, the modern Manchester museum, recently tweeted this:

“So, with all these media studies students about, why has the 'let's pay no fees' movement got no decent media spokespeople?”!/urbsmanchester

Interesting. This tweet was undoubtedly relating to today's London “march”.

There always was, and always will be, opposition to fees. And rightly so. There will probably be protests in Manchester and other cities in the near future.

Urbis have asked a good question- one I can answer. The media industry is broader than any other industry you can find. An employee could work in Marketing in media. They could be a technician. They might be a runner in TV or radio, a presenter or a programmer. They could work at an advertising agency or make corporate videos that only bank employees get to see. The point is, “Media” is a broad subject. It’s too broad a topic, in fact, for a Higher Education course to properly prepare a student for the world of work. I have a 2:1 in Professional Broadcast Techniques, a course in which I learned next to nothing about the techniques of broadcasting professionally. It was a very general course, and with little focus on a particular area of media. We definitely weren’t trained to act as a spokesperson for anyone. And I suppose PR should have been part of the syllabus.

Media courses do not prepare people for the world of work. There’s the proof. A plan for the future of Media courses: HE institutions should scrap Media as a general subject and replace it with intensive specialist subjects- like radio programming, marketing, journalism, TV production and advertising. Most of these will cross over, but these subjects will train an individual and channel them into a specific sector of the media industry. “Media”, as a subject, will not. Getting a job in the media, with a media qualification, will rely on many factors- but mostly luck.

Working in many of these industries takes a bit of guts. On my uni course, tutors warned us that we would have to fight our corner in the industry and that media bosses are sometimes short-tempered and tough. They tried to make us outspoken and resilient, but the course itself didn’t bring that out of us. Nobody developed that mentality that a lot of the staff had.

I nearly developed the ability to verbally fight my corner without sounding arrogant. I remember pitching to a tutor an idea for a short surreal film about choking. I wanted to make the audience feel like a lump of food in somebody’s throat as they choke, and I wanted the camera to “fly” out of the actor’s mouth when another character gives the Heimlich manoeuvre. “That sounds disgusting,” my tutor said. “Well,” I replied, “I’ve got the response that I wanted from my audience already. I’ve only pitched you the idea.”

I knew that I’d retorted the way she wanted: I defended my original vision in the face of criticism. She was a good tutor, I suppose. She challenged everyone’s ideas to see how they handled it. This didn’t happen often enough, though.

And that’s why there’s no God-damn student spokespeople out there- uni students aren’t required to “toughen up” and fight with their brains, like they would be in the industry.

Prove me wrong, media students. You deserve a better deal- not just with reducing the price of fees, like every other student, but in being provided with courses that give you tailored tuition AND what you might call “life coaching”- both of which would get you the job you want. The only problem with that is that future students are going to have to compete for the places. But isn’t that what used to happen... only with a grant?

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