Journalism studies in Denmark: At the SDU there are 1000 exciting paths

When I received my acceptance letter to study journalism I thought I had chosen my direction in life. A year has now passed, and I have learned that I did not settle on a specific path at all. This education opens so many doors, and the university gives me the opportunity to discover what is behind these doors. I am now a good kind of confused.

”Hi, my name is Karoline Dam. I am a journalism student from the University of Southern Denmark. Do you have a moment?”

I have lost count on how many times I have said this the last year, but I will probably never get tired of that phrase anyway: All these people I get to speak to. The stories that they share with me, and I am allowed to tell others. It makes me feel really privileged.

Out in the field for Newsweek. Photo: Signe Julie Andersen.

The journalism education at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) has given me the opportunity to tell so many stories: I have recently discussed the guerilla movement FARC with a former Colombian officer, questioned the function of a prayer room with Hetem, who is a Muslim, and met Mads who lives in polyamory, and tore down some of my prejudices. I am positive that it is these kinds of people I will continue to search for, but if their stories will be told with the help of a pen, a video camera or a dictaphone, only time will show.

Doubts in my journalistic brain

Our education covers all aspects of a possible journalistic career. Writing, radio, TV, or digital storytelling? I get to try it all.

And that has left me with a doubt. But a great kind of doubt.

Half a year for each of the above-mentioned areas does not leave me a specialist, but definitely a multi-skiller. In today’s journalistic practice where the internet is a thing and news happen every second, I am sure that making journalistic newcomers to multi-skillers is the right way to teach.

A journalistic nerd

I have learned to write a captive subhead, to create a picture universe for radio, and now I am just learning to edit a TV interview. But I am not only learning to “do” journalism, I am also learning how journalism historically has affected the world, how politics have an impact on journalists vis-à-vis, and how research and statistics will help me create a thorough and well-argued article.

Academic subjects such as media law, international politics, and media language cover 38 per cent of the education, as depicted in the figure below. My first thought when I realized this was: Why? I just want to be a journalist.

The structure of the journalism studies at the SDU. Please click to see a larger image.

However, I have quickly realized that these subjects are what builds the foundation to become a knowledgeable and good journalist.

A kind push

The world of journalists is a battlefield. My fellow students and I know that we must have sharp elbows and do something extra besides the education.

Luckily, the university got our back there. Do you want to be a newspaper editor? Join Lixen. Or are you more interested in getting better with picture and sound? Well, Beton TV and Odense Studenterradio give you the chance.

Reporting news in the morning radio. Photo: Christina Yoon Petersen.

A little piece of advice? Do take these chances. Learn what excites you and what you are good at because two years during the education you must benefit from this knowledge, when you have to find an internship. One year of the studies is reserved for you to show your talent to a company and for the company to learn you how to work in the “real” world. I was just about to tell you that this is the first taste of the journalism industry outside the university, but that is simply not true.

I dare to say that the education at the SDU is, if not the one, then one of the educations that couple learning with real life throughout. We speak to experts, politicians, and to other interesting citizens weekly. We visit radio and TV stations, and we even work for a local newspaper for a whole week.

I have often heard that university students almost feel detached from the outside during their education. I certainly do not have this problem.

Tiny setup – huge competition

A part of the detachment from the outside is the lack of socializing. Luckily, we do not miss out on that at all. We consider ourselves a rather small education, we are no more than 200 students divided into two semesters walking around the journalists’ area, Medietorvet, at the same time. Most of them, including myself, moved to Odense from a long distance after getting in. That forces people to make new friendships, and so we did! Some of my fellow students have become people I do not know how to live without, and I thank the university, that I was “forced” to get to know these people.

Editing the newest TV-assignment. Photo: Karoline Hedegaard.

They are not only friends, they are also competitors. In a profession that is difficult to get noticed in, they urge me to become better at what I am already good at, because ‘good does just not cut it – we have to be great. And with the above-mentioned possibilities, I dare to say that SDU helps us more than we could wish. The rest is up to us. I am so excited to discover what the next year of school has in store for me before I (hopefully) find an internship.

Karoline Lunddal Dam

Me interviewing the Danish musician Hjalmer last month. Photo: Tine Dam Rasmussen

The author strives to become a journalist and began her path at the Danish Folk Highschool Krogerup, focusing on Journalism and Media. Afterwards, she stayed three months in the US studying News reporting and Writing at Bucks County Community College. Now she is studying Journalism at the University of Southern Denmark while working as a web assistant at the Danish television station TV 2.

 

How to support students with multimedia storytelling? Try this map!

As a teacher, it feels sometimes difficult to make journalism students try to experiment with alternative ways of storytelling. No matter that you have carefully gone through multiple examples of what is possible online, and motivated students to break down their stories to videos, images, graphics and other visualizations. The result will be a long text,  possibly with one or two images. You find yourself asking if there are any better pedagogical choices to nourish fantasy.

The multimedia storytelling map by the Swiss School of Journalism, MAZ.

The Swiss School of Journalism – Die Schweizer Journalistenschule MAZ introduced a map for multimedia storytelling at an EJTA Conference in 2015. The map depicts different choices to consider for telling a story with the help of multimedia. The aim is to feed the journalist’s imagination by showing possibilities for presenting an idea online. The idea is that by asking questions about the material you may be able to match the content with a suitable form.

I have been using the map on different teaching occasions, and to ensure a more comfortable use in Finland, I recently translated it into Finnish. It is currently available in EnglishSwedish and German (as well as in Azerbaijani and Dutch). As the tool is a work in progress, the German version is already in its 5th edition. The map can be downloaded as a pdf, and thus, printed, which is still a valid option in the our classrooms, or used as an interactive html version.

The idea to reduce the complex decision-making process to a limited number of questions and answers may appear to many  too simplified. Some questions, such as whether the person’s appearance is important to telling the story or not, may even seem irrelevant in some contexts. To prevent misunderstandings and overinterpretations it is thus important that the map is introduced in the classroom by the teacher with a short debriefing about the objectives of the approach. At its best, the map functions as a tool that supports the student’s creative process, not as an instruction sheet with pre-made decisions that has to be followed by numbers.

With this little example I am inviting colleagues from the Nordic countries to present their best online teaching materials to their colleagues. You don’t have to wait for the next NordJour conference to share the greatest classroom discoveries!

Maarit Jaakkola

The author teaches and researches journalism in Finland and Sweden. She is happy to receive suggestions from teachers on texts presenting and discussing teaching materials and pedagogical ideas to be published in this blog at maarit.jaakkola@uta.fi.

Want to work abroad? Don’t forget your Nordic neighbours!

Working abroad and getting international working experience – hands up who hasn’t dreamed about it and decided to make the dream come true one day? But who of you have thought the neighbouring Nordic countries as an option? No, we choose London and Japan – and so did I, before finding my way to Sweden.

Today the world is small and there are as many ways to work abroad as there are dreamers. My own experience is not a coherent or systematic one, but life rarely is.

Needless to say, being a freelancer journalist (or almost any other freelancer) is challenging and often requires existing contacts, skills and good luck. Many journalists prefer to work as an independent writer, but I like working for, and with, someone. However, I hadn’t been able to live abroad and to be an employee at the same time.

During my early years of university studies as I was living in Finland I, for some reason, never realised to stop and think the international working options in neighbour countries. I did know that in Stockholm, for example, there were a few different media where one could use, and improve, Swedish and Finnish language as well as journalism sklls. Maybe I thought that my poor(ish) school Swedish would be too poor to be able to work in Sweden… So I chose Asia – well, that makes lots of sense, doesn’t it?

After graduating I lived in London and started a modest career as a freelancer journalist, but it didn’t take a long time to realise that better working conditions would wait for me in Finland. In my homeland I gained more experience as a journalist, and later could become a freelancer journalist again, this time in Japan and South Korea. There my experience and results were slightly better than as a novice a few years earlier.

As a summer journalist in Sweden

Anyway, apparently it took me some years and a decision to start a new international masters program in Denmark to come across a summertime journalist vacancy at Sveriges Radio’s Finnish channel Sisuradio. As I hadn’t any plans for the following summer, I thought I can always try. Therefore I took a train from Copenhagen to Stockholm and went to see Finnish radio professionals. And got excited right away. Fortunately, also the job interviewers were – well if not excited – at least happy to hire me.

And when the summer came, my excitement just kept rising in a new but cosy channel with encouraging and supportive colleagues. When I confessed to a Swedish-Finnish colleague that I had to use a dictionary often because Swedish is sometimes difficult for me, he said he uses the dictionary every day – because Finnish is sometimes difficult for him.

I think one of the best things about being a journalist is that I learn every day something new about the world and its people. This summer, I didn’t learn only about the world and Sweden, I also learned Swedish language and culture. At the moment, I am continuing my studies in Copenhagen but will work part-time in Sisuradio’s Malmö office.

After the summer, my heart still beats when I’m going to do an interview in Swedish. But it doesn’t beat as fast as three months ago. The interviews don’t always go like “on Strömsö”, like they say in Finnish, but at least I can smile like a Swedish. I know I will succeed and I will fail many times. For those reasons, among others, I want to encourage young (and old) journalists and journalism students to take a train or a ferry to a neighbour country. It is an international experience, which again can bring along many new ones.

Karoliina Kantola

The author is studying MSc degree in Global studies and International development at Roskilde University, Denmark. Previously, she has taken BA in Comparative literature and MSc in Journalism at the University of Tampere, Finland. During the summer, she worked as a radio news journalist in Stockholm at the Sveriges Radios Finnish-speaking channel Sisuradio focusing on the affairs related to the Finnish living in Sweden.

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