Lincoln journo school gets BJTC award

The University of Lincoln’s School of Journalism has received a national award for its teaching methods. The BA course has won the British Journalism Training Council’s Award for Innovation in Broadcast Journalism Training, less than a year after becoming fully accredited.  Despite being the first year the course was eligible for the award, the broadcast aspect was praised for its involvement with the community radio station Siren FM.

Over the moon: Journalism Programme Leader, Deborah Wilson. | Photo: Samuel Cox

Deborah Wilson, Programme Leader for journalism at the university, compiled the course’s entry for the award, which highlighted the idea that the use of a community radio station can enhance student learning and have a positive effect on the curriculum.

“We are doing some really unique things here at Lincoln and this is getting us recognition but it would not be possible without the fantastic attitude of staff and students that are willing to put so much into the course.  We are also lucky to have a Head of School that allows us to try such new and untested ideas,” said Wilson.

The success of this was previously noted in November 2007, when the BA course received the maximum three-year accreditation from the BJTC.  The accreditation panel noted that: “Siren FM offers a vital and greatly appreciated opportunity for those students who want to improve their news reading skills and to build up on their broadcast experience.” The University of Lincoln stands alone, in Britain, as having a community radio station where students and community journalists work along side each other.

Managing Editor of Siren and lecturer at the University of Lincoln, Andrew David, shed some light on this concept: “We have a pioneering scheme, which nobody else is doing. There are lots of student radio stations, but none are full-time stations employing community journalists.  This has many benefits; the students learn how to use their local community as a news source and it allows members of the community to have their own voice.”

The station has even made an impact on local BBC radio stations.  Maggie Curtis, a BBC news editor, is working as Communities Editor for Siren FM during a year long secondment and  expressed the BBC’s desire to work closely with station.
“The BBC is keen to create local partnerships and sees Siren as a platform for community journalism and a nursery slope for community journalists.  Many of Siren’s community sources are passed on and used by the BBC,” she said.

Community volunteer, Sam Woodings, who presents the Science on Siren show at 7pm every Wednesday, has worked at other community stations in the past, but sees the idea of Siren as a great improvement.

“The university is prepared to put time and money into the station which means the equipment is top quality and there is a lot of support available.  Working at Siren seems like a step up and the students I work with are professional and easy to get along with” said Woodings.

Student Leigh Milner works as sports editor on Tuesdays, and has found  Siren has given her invaluable experience. As a result she has been able to get regular work experience at BBC Radio Lincolnshire.

“Siren gives me a great chance to practice writing for radio along with getting to grips with how an actual radio newsroom really works” said Leigh.

Deborah Wilson also managed to acquire a £9,350 funding award from the Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Art, Design and Media, which is helping the project continue. “We are always trying new things and now include a ‘back to basics’ news day in our assessment where students cannot use the internet and have to get out of the newsroom to gather their stories.”

On March 25th, Wilson and David, along with university representatives, travelled to the award ceremony at the National Union of Journalists in London to collect the award.

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