Posted by: Ciaran | November 25, 2010

Is UCLan right to tell journalism students not to cover an EDL march?

Journalism students at UCLan have been advised against honing their skills by reporting on this weekend’s English Defence League (EDL) march, according to this report.

Blog Preston co-editor and third year journalism student Andy Halls has promised to defy the request of the journalism school to avoid the city centre on Saturday, when there will also be a march by the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) group – as well as a football match between Preston North End and Millwall.

I’m with Andy on this one. While it’s completely sensible to warn the students about the dangers they may face covering such an event, they are – or should be – old enough and responsible enough to take their own decisions on whether or not they feel safe.

In some situations, it’s about taking a calculated risk. I covered an EDL protest with a UAF counter-protest while I was still a student (albeit a postgraduate rather than an undergraduate) and was not advised against doing so.

But I wouldn’t have done it – or hung around at it – if I thought it was going to put myself in real danger of serious injury, in the same way I wouldn’t now when I’m in a job and no longer a student. As Andy said: “If they want us to be reporting hard news, they’ll have to let us make our own decisions.”

Good journalism isn’t just about having a clear nose for news or a great writing style – it’s about having the knack of being in the right place at the right time, taking the opportunities that are there, and learning where the boundaries are.

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Responses

  1. Glad to hear an ex-journalism student agree with my view, especially one who has themselves been in a situation similar to the one I’ll find myself in come Saturday.

    While I can totally understand UCLan covering its own back by warning students that the protests might not be a pleasant place to be, I wholeheartedly disagree with telling them to keep away completely.

    Ultimately, the time spent as a student journalist is the ideal time to experiment with new skills, and techniques; and while putting yourself in danger isn’t something that any journalist should do for a story, a potentially-newsworthy event like this is a prime opportunity to test out an aspiring journalists’ arsenal.

    The final note in the email sent to all students was: “we don’t feel this is a suitable event where trainee journalists can practice their skills.”

    Again, I totally disagree.

    This is an ideal opportunity to step out of the comfort zone, and student bubble, and challenge yourself to put all the skills you’ve learnt in the safety of a University classroom to the test.

    I can’t wait to see what Saturday throws my way; hopefully, it’s not bricks.

  2. […] Since senior tutors at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) sent round an email on Tuesday morning telling students to avoid demonstrations in the city centre on Saturday, there has been some debate as to whether they were right or wrong. […]


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