Thursday, 27 March 2014


Remember how I said in my last post (what? you don't remember? did you even read it?! I am disappointed in you, tut tut and for shame, I say, for shame...) I wouldn't be changing course...well...turns out I may have been a little too hasty in stating that. 

Yes, I am changing course (hopefully, I've made the application, met the tutors and been accepted onto the new course, pending successful completion of this year, but still something may go wrong), moving on, setting sail and other such sayings that indicate movement from one state to another. I discussed what I didn't like about this Journalism course in my previous blog (please, please read it! Every time I write one of these things and don't get readers, I die a little...partly metaphorically and partly literally as the boss pours black scorpions down my shirt and ooh how the toxin burns...aka, HELP!) but to briefly outline the main reasons:

1) Spending teaching time on shorthand is, in my opinion,'s taught entirely from a book, it's time wasted having someone teach it. Could use that time on something else. Have shorthand as ongoing homework or whatever.

2) I dislike the moral ambiguity of "chasing stories". Going after information for the sake of knowledge is something I'm cool with. Going after it, not to learn, but to sell stories is abhorrent.

3) It's writing Jim, but not as we know it. Writing is an art form. News Writing is a science. There is a formula to follow each and every time and that is heartbreaking for me.

Anyway, there are other reasons, but yeah, those are probably the main ones. Well, that plus how the course is set up...bits of it just don't make sense, like the shorthand I mentioned, but also...well, we've got an assessment coming up where part of it is using voice recorders and cameras...but there's been barely any training on them. I recognise that teaching time is limited, but surely if something is going to be assessed it warrants a bit more than a one hour session that only covered the absolute basics and even then missed some points out. Luckily I have my own gear so I should be okay for it, but others? 

I don't know, maybe the pay off is in the second and third year, but honestly, I don't feel like I've learnt anything this year. In fact, I feel like I've regressed because I've not been engaging my brain as much as I did in college. 

Or maybe it just isn't for me, I don't know, it wouldn't be the first time I've been completely wrong with my choice, with something I thought that was entirely right for me. In any case, this will be a short one and I am going to wrap it up here because I have still got a lot of work to complete and yeah...that needs doing, so later taters!

PS: I didn't mention what course I'm hoping to switch's English and Creative Writing, and now you know.  

Friday, 7 March 2014

Weights and counter-weights

Samurai had this idea that one should live as though one is dreaming and that death is where we all "wake up" so to speak. Well, that's not entirely true, but then, it's not entirely false either and for the purposes of this piece it's truth enough which is actually pretty lucky as this one is all about perception.

It is one of my favourite things in the world. The idea that someone can experience the exact same thing but recount or otherwise interpret it differently than myself or anyone else who witnessed said hypothetical event. To a lot of people it can be quite scary, not knowing what is going on in other people's heads. I would be lying if I said it doesn't scare me at times, but then at others, I marvel at it, because what else can you do? People often think I'm attacking them when I ask them to explain their point of view on something, because I can be too brusque, too accusatory in tone or whatever...which is a failing on my part, because almost always I am just trying to understand a different perspective. I'm not attacking, I'm not chiding or demeaning, I am simply trying to understand.

Sometimes I do take it too far though and I forget about myself, my own actual point of view, and put on the mask of questioner, the me who isn't me but is... I think everyone does this to some extent, the football fan that, for example, is swept along in the moment and attacks someone for insulting their team, the anti-hate protester who becomes a reflection of the people they are protesting against, the people who care so much it hurts them to care at all. In trying to satisfy the inner desires, to belong, to be good, to be righteous, we do sometimes create a monster.

But of course, you can't see that. It is like living at the bottom of a lake, even if you could potentially see the sky above the water, but you would not know it is dry until you get out. Would you even know what "dry" is, having spent your life at the bottom of a lake? We only know what we can know and, even then, not all of that.

Perception is a funny thing. I know what I am talking about and I think I have even explained it pretty well, but you could interpret it another way entirely. You could be angry that I've implied you've been living at the bottom of the lake (hey, I didn't say perceptions had to make sense) or take umbrage at my use of the word "umbrage" could think it banal, funny, insightful, insipid, boring or anything in between or outside of that range but I can guarantee that not one of you would read it in the exact way I had meant it to be read....which is really poor phrasing for which I do apologise, I am very tired right now. You might get close, very close, but you would never, ever be able to read these words as I would, nor could I ever be exact in the way you interpret maybe you would interpret them correctly because I can't perceive that doesn't mean it can't be done right?! Heh, tangents, love them, anyway.

This has just been a long-way of saying I am leaving the journalism course. For a few reasons; firstly, I don't really believe in objectivity and it seems dishonest to try to claim it as a career. Secondly, you have read my writing, right? It is good, very good, even if I do say so myself, but it isn't really suitable for news (see objectivity complaint). Thirdly, I can't report. I get too interested in what people are saying, why they say those things, the reasons etc....which means I don't get the quotes down....Fourthly; I get bored when people speak (I know, both ends of the spectrum right, almost like a person can have more than one trait!) and I zone out to think about video games, or books, or food, even *whispers* girls! Don't tell the priests! brain isn't quite right, I blame Deadpool. 

Fifth and finally, the cynicism. Now, I am a fairly cynical chap, or at least, I was until a few years ago. I still kind of am, but it's more of a jovial cynicism now...that was until I started doing stories for this course....people hoping for tragedies because they make the best stories....dismissing people's hardships as irrelevant because they won't sell papers...treating people as leads or contacts instead of just...people...there's a dehumanisation there, you know? As much as I dislike being around people I do value them as people, as humans, to be treated rightly not because I'm trying to wheedle a story out of them either now or in the future, but because treating them rightly is the correct thing to do. There is just something ever so slightly abhorrent about it.

Which you may realise is hypocritical because at the start of this I said about my asking people questions to try to understand them, basically getting a "story" for myself. There isn't much of a difference, but, also remember this is about perception, it makes sense in my eyes.

So what now for this old wolf...I have started on the road to sorting out an English course next year, just have to finish and pass the current year, and I might combine it with something, maybe. It looks like I will have to repeat the first year (if I can even get onto it) but that's fine, I expected that. Why did I write about perceptions today, partly it's because I know that people will think I'm insane for doing this, I get that a lot because I do things that seem like crazy snap judgements, but it's not. This particular thing has been bubbling away in my head since the start of the year. If anything, the insane snap judgement was deciding to stick at it to see if it would improve. Generally speaking, these apparently hastily made decisions are the result of months of mostly silent contemplation on the subject. Perceptions are a funny thing.

Monday, 3 March 2014

A day-trip to the crunch

March eh? When did that happen?! Well, obviously it happened after February but hey, stop being obtuse! I'm talking about it in terms of the mortal "time is fleeting" existentialist kind of rhetoric that is so popular amongst kids these days (I'd assume...I mean kids do nothing now but talk philosophy don't they?) but yeah, enough about that, what I really want to talk about is March itself.

This month (and well, to be fair, a week or two of April) is full fit to bursting with essays and news stories to be written and exams to be completed and portfolios to be submitted and lions and tigers and bears, oh my! It's a lot of work, to be sure and I, in true Terencian fashion (yep, my name can now also be used as an adjective), am resisting the call to work because it's not yet the last moment to do everything. Which, I know, is a very stupid thing to do.

To be entirely honest, I've been contemplating changing course. Not altogether seriously, but when I find myself in the wee hours of the night, sat at my desk, a bottle of vodka in one hand and a gun to my head in the other because I can't find a solitary news story (scenario may not be entirely factual) I sometimes do think, maybe, just maybe, this isn't for me. 

I don't doubt that others have had this thought, not just on my course, but on every course. A "maybe the grass is greener" kind of thought about other paths, and as it gets closer and closer to the end of the year I find myself thinking more and more about it. Mainly because you can only get student loans for three years plus one, (I assume that plus one is there as a safety net should you only just fail the first year and are allowed to return, or you want to try a different course) so after this year it would be kind of hard to finance a jaunt through the third year. 

What's making me doubt my ability to do well at this is, well, a lot of things really, but principally it comes down to two things. Firstly, I'm inexact. I tend to speak, and write, passionately and you can't do that in newspapers. You have to be balanced, you have to be objective, which is a ludicrous concept if you think about it (how can a subjective being be objective?) and it annoys me more than anything.

Secondly, I am really, really, phenomenally bad at taking quotes. Shorthand is supposed to be a help in this, but if anything, it's a hindrance, at least it is to me. Not entirely sure how learning what is essentially a second language is supposed to help me take things down quicker than I could in my "native" tongue. That's not fair though, I guess, I've seen how quick it can be, it's just me, I can't do that, my brain isn't fast enough in that regard. I can't marry that specific, instinctive reaction to the mechanical skill. 

I am a bit slow, a bit plodding, when it comes to writing. I tend to write and rewrite and rewrite again because what I have initially wrote is not what I meant or doesn't flow well. So far in this very blog I've gone back over it and deleted and rewrote at least four paragraphs and countless sentences. It's something that can't really be done with news copy, you can maybe get away with a few grammatical errors, but it's got to be done quickly and to a formula. It's not writing, as such, it's working to a formula, which I think is actually my main criticism of it and is probably *the* reason why I have considered changing course. There's no need to understand a story, there are the facts, you get them down, you get them sent out. It's also affecting my writing ability, I've gone from a quite complex style to a more simplified one, and I don't like it! I'm making far more grammatical errors than I used to because I'm second guessing myself, I'm not using as many literary allusions because outside of editorials they have no place, it's so annoying!

These are just musings though. I'm not changing course, mainly because next year I get to do broadcast work, i.e. the stuff I am actually interested in doing. It's kind of weird that the first year would put so much emphasis on what is a dying medium (that is to say, print) and basically nothing on television, radio and relatively little on on-line publishing. The other factor to consider is...fuck it, you know, it's another style of writing. It doesn't hurt to have another weapon in my locker when I do get into writing full time. it'll definitely be better next year, no more shorthand....later taters!