The London School of Journalism

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Student case study - Marianne B

A lifelong interest in language and writing drew Marianne B to Switzerland and to a career in radio production and translation.

But when she embarked on the LSJ’s online postgraduate course in February 2008, it was with the aim of harnessing her writing skills to work as a freelance journalist.

At the age of 44, she was living in Montreux with her Swiss husband and two daughters, working as a freelance radio production assistant and translator.

Born and educated in England, she was a compulsive writer by the age of 10 but lost both her parents by the time she was 17 and moved from A-levels to a job in music publishing and artist management.

She worked in France before moving to Switzerland and over the years worked as a press officer for the Montreux Jazz Festival and as a production assistant in film, television and radio.

The timing of the course could not have been better. A few months earlier, a big publishing company in Switzerland launched a news website for Anglophones and Anglo-professionals in the country. Although her request for work experience was turned down, there was an indication that she might be able to work for them on a freelance basis.

“I sent an example of my work – an article I had written as a tutorial piece – which they published,” she recalls. “Not only was I able to send my first invoice for a news story, I was also asked to submit other ideas, which were approved and became published articles.

“During my studies, more than 100 of my articles were published on the website.”

By the second year of the two-year course – which involves four modules in newswriting, sub-editing, features writing and internet journalism – the director of the English language radio station she worked for asked her to produce a short weekly segment where people talk about objects they would never want to part with, and why.

“It has been broadcast weekly for nearly a year now and has enabled me to meet many people, who have often provided me with leads for stories for the news website.”

Studying in an online lecture room, she was able to meet fellow trainees from across Europe and beyond similarly interested in pursuing a journalism career in the country where they are now based – some as far apart as India, America and the Middle East.

“Two months before the end of the LSJ course, the director of the radio station sent me on a writing for radio workshop at the BBC in London. The two days I spent reading, writing and listening with other journalists really boosted by self-confidence and made me realise how much I had learned through the LSJ,” she says.

“Now, when I approach potential outlets, I can say I am a published journalist. Two years ago, that was just a dream.”  

“The LSJ course was the most useful professional training I have ever had,” she maintains. “There are many courses that claim to teach people to write but the LSJ online postgraduate diploma course pushes students out into the real world to find the stories they must write to meet deadlines.

“When you know you have a week in which to research, write and submit a story and that you will be penalised if you don’t meet your deadline, you just get on with it.”

Students on the course submit a series of tutorial pieces for their individual tutor as well as completing class assignments and online exams at the end of each module. The final exam is a two-and-a-half-hour “synoptic” paper covering all the subjects studied during the course.

“After the synoptic exam, I was exhausted,” says Marianne. “I realised how much work I had put into the course and how it had practically taken over my life for two years. But professionally, those two years were the happiest I have known.

“I needed to do this course to prove to myself that I was capable. It has boosted my self-confidence and was the most useful training I have had in my life.”

A month after finishing the course Marianne was appointed publications co-ordinator for the International Equestrian Federation.