What a time to be alive. Boris Johnson is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (just about). Donald J Trump is the President of the United States of America. Brexit – the formal process of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union – is nearly upon us. And Luton Town are playing in the Championship for the first time in 12 years. There has never been so much turmoil, uncertainty, controversy, scandal, injustice, corruption and pure uproar on this Earth than there is in 2019.
Which of course means – what a time to be studying Broadcast-Journalism, especially at the University of Bedfordshire.
Having been born and bred in Luton, it was an easy decision to stay in Bedfordshire instead of moving further afield. It was cheaper and it was more suited to me, but most of all, Luton is a unique town. Half an hour from London’s St Pancras, Luton is home to the biggest one-day international carnival in Europe, and a town as diverse in culture unlike any other.
When I started the course in October 2016, I really didn’t know what to expect. Meeting new people is always an experience for any fresher. But when you meet a group of individuals who are as passionate about the course as you are, you know you are amongst company that has the potential to produce some great journalism.
Our first main event was having the opportunity to cover the 2016 US Presidential Election. Which of course was quite an experience. What that taught us most of all is what the atmosphere inside a newsroom on election night can be like, especially under unpredictable circumstances when producing radio bulletins and online content.
We realised on that night too, how talented our lecturers were – a former BBC picture editor; a former Westminster reporter for over 25 years; a BBC Sport reporter for over 30 years. One thing that you learn when you study Journalism in any University, is that it’s important that they have the experience of “practising what they preach”. Journalism is a subject which can’t be taught academically and without any practical knowhow. To have this level of expertise teaching us and showing us the ropes, we are learning from the highest calibre possible.
After the US election we had the fortunate chance of covering the Snap General Election in June 2017. Not only that, we were able to produce and broadcast the coverage for the BJTC – the Broadcast Journalism Training Council – a highly regarded accreditation board for the Journalism Industry. Being the ‘hosts’ for the night was phenomenal.
We had reports coming in from fellow student-journalists based up and down the country. From Bournemouth to Newcastle, Sunderland to Liverpool. Our little newsroom in Luton was a national hub on yet another unpredictable night in British political history.
We then have Radio LaB, our student radio station. For over twenty years, it has been the beacon for not only the University but also for the community of Luton and Bedfordshire. It has been the starting point for several radio DJs, from Rickie and Melvin who are now in BBC Radio 1, to JJ and Chris Ros who can be heard on Capital FM.
However, in an age where we are seeing a greater dominance by commercial and BBC Radio, it’s important to stand up and take ownership of student and community radio in terms of local broadcasting and local content.
I decided to host my own radio show in October 2016. I christened it “Walsh Weekly”. It sort of took off. We had a guest lecture event at the University, by Andrew Pierce, talking about fake news. As he took questions afterwards, I asked him to come on my radio show. He said yes. That was lift off. That interview gave me the confidence to push my limitations and to see where I can go.
At the time of writing, in the two and a half years I have been hosting my show (every Sunday between 12 – 3pm!), I have interviewed the likes of Iain Lee, Tony Hadley (from THE Spandau Ballet), Shappi Khorsandi, Omid Djalili, Stephen K Amos, Zoe Lyons, Danny Wallace and Rev. Kate Bottley.
My unique twist, is that instead of talking about their latest book or their latest tour, I look at how they get to where they are today. It is more fascinating examining their story and how they get to where they are than just looking at their present selves. I feel that it makes my interviews stand out from the interviews that they conduct elsewhere on TV or Radio.
My last point I will make about studying Broadcast Journalism at University of Bedfordshire is there is no other university quite like it.
The relationship that the University has with the town is unlike any other University in the country. The ever-expanding Campus Centre, with our brand-new STEM Building, uplifts the town and makes every student feel a part of the town’s new identity.
So if you want to be apart of my hometown and start your own journey at the University of Bedfordshire – you’re more than welcome. It’s more than just a degree.
Luke Walsh is University of Bedfordshire, Journalism graduate. You can catch him at @OneWalshMeister