Many journalists have traded the newsroom for the classroom, deciding that the next phase of their careers lies in teaching the next generation. spoke with five people who have trodden this path with one question in mind: what do you wish you knew about teaching journalism before you started?

Find your stepping stones

Christopher Brown is programme leader on the University of the West of England's (UWE) multimedia journalism masters course. He worked for BBC News Online and The Independent before freelancing as a teacher one day a week at UWE.

"It's very rare for a journalist to immediately become a full-time lecturer or senior lecturer," says Brown. "You have to get that initial experience, so it's key to get that experience from small-scale teaching work or guest lectures, wherever you can find it."

These days, Brown passes down industry lessons to his students, not just the most recent technical or journalistic skills, "but also the feel of a newsroom and stories of what it's like to work in the industry."

Students have told him how much they have enjoyed work placements and working in journalism, and he says, that is exactly what he hopes to instill in budding journalists.

Don't give up the day job

"I had all the knowledge in my head from working in newspapers and magazines, but I needed to articulate this to students so they would understand," says Steve Bough, a lecturer in multimedia journalism at Falmouth University. Industry experience alone is not enough to be a good teacher.

"Teaching journalism is different than working in a newsroom, but hugely enjoyable. My method is to break down each theme into small steps so the students can understand and have a go themselves."

University jobs are not guaranteed to be full-time, so he recommended having one foot planted in the industry to supplement income and keep options open. For that reason, he has edited the Wavelength surfing magazine for more than a decade.

Become a door opener

Lecturing is a hard gig, but what makes it worth it is to help hard-working journalists earn their first opportunities.

That is according to Tim Fenton, who freelanced in print and broadcast media before a long career at the BBC, where he served as managing editor for BBC News Interactive and the politics and parliamentary correspondent for BBC News. Now, he teaches at The University of Essex as a senior lecturer in journalism.

"I wish people told me how good it was to work with young people keen to learn about what is the best job in the world," he says.

“Journalism is all about connecting people. Be cheerful and confident to do your bit to make that connection a pleasant process."

Think long-term

Vera Slavtcheva-Petkova has worked for numerous UK universities, including Loughborough University, University of Oxford, University of Chester and now, University of Liverpool, where she is a reader in global journalism and media.

Reader is an unusual rank that in the UK sits between senior lecturer and professor. It is gained through an internal application system, where the candidate must show an extensive research and impact background. This matters as much of her current role is facilitating wider engagement of the university, such as spearheading joint initiatives with UNESCO.

Her advice to those considering a move into teaching is to consider that universities are not all the same. Different universities place different priorities on practice and theory, and you need to weigh up how a university will support your long-term ambitions. For her, that is bridging industry and academia.

"Research is an opportunity to dig into the stories you have always been interested in and never had the time to devote attention to," she says.

Move with the times

Andy Chatfield was deputy editor of the Oxford Mail before becoming journalism course leader at Southampton University in 2015, and now works at Falmouth University as senior lecturer and journalism course leader. 

He says that news changes fast, and lecturing needs to keep pace with it.

"Adapting courses and materials is fun," he said, having spent years away from what he called 'the front line' of journalism. "Especially as the students help to inform the curriculum, but it is time-consuming and challenging."

Because of this, his advice is to keep up with industry trends, even (or especially) if you are fresh from the industry. Those insights can come from media trade websites, research reports and journalism conferences. But be willing to learn a thing or two from your own students.

"Make the switch with an open mind," he adds. "Be prepared to question, adapt or abandon some of your cherished assumptions about what the industry gets right and wrong."

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