No one should think that spending a long hot August on an intensive journalism training course is an easy option, but the LSJ’s Summer School is a popular tradition, ideal for university students wanting to get an early taste of journalism as a career, for mature students considering a change in career, and for students from abroad wanting to consolidate their existing writing and language skills.
In 2011, around 50 students (split into smaller groups) attended, from across Europe to Turkey, Ukraine, Canada, India and Bangladesh. As in previous years, those taking part in the month-long series of lectures and practical assignments range from experienced journalists wanting to improve their English to university students seeking their first practical experience of writing for publication. Students come from all over the world, from the Middle East to South America, from Scandinavia to Romania, as well as from much closer to home. Ages ranged from 19 to 50-plus.
Summer school over the years has attracted experienced writers and broadcasters like Delia Panait from Romania, determined to improve their English and study UK journalism in action, while others were looking for a change in career – like Pippa Mettawa who went on to broadcast radio news in Muscat.
A few, like Deni Stephens and Guilia Tarditi, subsequently returned to study more intensive journalism courses, while Roberta Facchinetti was hoping to pass on some of her new skills as a lecturer in journalism herself in Verona.
Past courses have also proved that age and/or lack of experience are no barrier to getting into print if the talent is there – as when, the previous year, Durham university student Lea Morpurgo got her gap-year article published in the Telegraph while she was on the course – and fellow Durham student Peter Bolton went on to complete internships with newspapers in Germany and Spain before working for a congressman in Washington for four months.
From the same year, Ana Franca went to Macau to work for a Portuguese paper there, while Natalie Fox from Beirut (2008) went on to work as travel editor at Eat Me magazine.
Cagil Kasapoglu (2010), another Turkish journalist, wrote a few weeks after attending the summer school to say she was taking up a full-time position as a foreign news journalist with CNN Turk, based in Istanbul.
Diletta Paoletti (2011) returned to the University of Perugia in Italy, where she has been involved in a project focused on better communication about European Union issues. As well as attending Perugia’s International Journalism Festival in 2012 as a guest speaker, she has had articles published in local newspapers and online news sites like Corriere dell’ Umbria and Umbria 24, and national outlets like Libertà e Giustizia and L’Espresso, the weekly magazine from the editorial group producing La Repubblica, one of Italy’s foremost quality papers.
She wrote: “It was my first journalism course, so it gave me some skills, abilities and expertise that I did not have before (style, stories, blogging and so on).
“The experience at the LSJ has been very important for me. Back home, in September I started my blog, which gave me the opportunity not only to write, but to get noticed.”
But perhaps the last word should go to Sera de Vor from the 2009 summer school whose excited email summed up the possibilities arising from a few weeks of intensive study in London.
“Not sure if you’re going to remember me, but I’m the one with the curly orange hair and a smile plastered on her face at all times. You may remember me sitting outside on the ground and crying after the lunch we had on the last day. I had a hard time leaving because I fell in love with the LSJ and I still miss my time in London dearly.
“A few days ago I was placing an order at Starbucks when the barista asked me what I do for a living. I replied without thinking, ‘I’m a journalist’. It took me a few seconds to realise that I had just said out loud, for the first time in my life, the one sentence I had been waiting to say since I was 13.
“The very next thing that came to my mind was the LSJ. Which brings me to this moment – me, at my desk at work, writing you an email updating you on my life.
“On arriving home, I spent a month sitting on my couch and crying myself to sleep at night because I missed London too much. One day I got a call from a producer at a TV station who wanted my services for the day – I’m a freelance make-up artist. The producer was polite and tried to avoid an awkward silence with friendly chit-chat.
“She asked me if I was a student. ‘I have a BA in American Culture and Literature,’ I said. ‘Oh, and I just finished a programme at the London School of Journalism.’ Her eyes lit up like fireflies. I was offered a job on the spot.
“I’ve been working here for over three months now and I couldn’t be happier. I mostly write foreign news, but I’ve also written sports and prepared interviews with foreign diplomats. I work with a two-hour morning show where two presenters read and comment on newspapers from around the world. I translate the English language papers, assist with pre- and post-show production, make copies and get a lot of tea.
“I haven’t even got to the best part yet – where I work. I work for TRT Türk, which is an international, 24- hour, live news channel, part of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, which is basically the BBC of Turkey.
“In short, I guess I just wanted to say thank you. I'm 21 years old and working as a journalist already, thanks to everything I learned and gained studying with you.”
Five months after sending that email, Sera took up a new job on the Hürriyet Daily News, Turkey's oldest and most respected English daily.
In 2012, she wrote to say: “I’m covering some pretty serious pieces – covering issues like the separation of powers in Turkey, interviewing important people and doing interesting cultural stories, using the skills I learned at the LSJ every step of the way.”
It is very satisfying that something from which both Tutors and students get real pleasure should launch such a wide range of life-enhancing experiences.