After much research into distance learning courses in journalism, I decided that the British College of Journalism was the best choice for me in terms of flexibility, the experience of the tutors and price.
The course can be completed in as quickly as 3 months and allows you up to one year to complete. I found this flexibility important as I am often busy in my day job (the day job I hope to leave soon, thanks to the BCJ).
The coursework itself is delivered periodically and begins with the all-important fundamentals of setting yourself up to be a freelance journalist. In the later stages the course, the material delves into niche subjects such as journalism law, cultivating positive PR and the business of freelance journalism.
The coursework also has specific chapters covering everything from writing for motor magazines to writing about animals and pets. The content is diverse and, whilst covering the nitty-gritty, is also highly informative on a broad scope of writing for specific titles.
I enjoyed the chapters on interview technique and most importantly, generating ideas for new feature ideas. The course helped me train my brain to produce ideas from current news stories – or even mundane everyday life things.
There are ten course assignments to complete and two of these focus on writing a feature piece. Other assignments focus on other mediums of journalism such as collating celebrity quotes and travel writing, all of which I am glad to have learnt and are handy to keep in your repertoire. The feedback on the assignments is invaluable and the tutors are very receptive to new ideas (they encourage them) and are proactive in responding to any questions you may have.
As well as the assignments, the coursework is full of self exercises designed to get you to think for yourself and put into practice what you have already learned throughout the course.
Importantly, the College taught me to adapt my writing style to fit what is expected in print and online media. Succinct sentences are preferred and editors prefer short, snappy factual copy. Though I found it tricky at first as a natural over-writer, the course has helped me hone and tailor my word count and not to over complicate things by sticking to the facts - to show not tell and to always write in the active voice.
As a part of my final assignment, I wrote a feature piece for a local title and thanks to what I had learnt via the College, I felt confident in interviewing my subjects and then approaching the editor with my pitch. I was very proud to have my final assignment published, both in print and online. It was a fantastic end to working with the College.
I hope to have many more features published this coming year and cannot thank the College enough for their support and for producing such an easy to follow and informative course.