General Journalism / Journalism skills / Natasha Slee

Real Life Isn’t Working Alone. By Natasha Slee.

This Final Major Project (creating a teen girl magazine) has been at the forefront of my mind for what feels like endless months. In quiet moments I picture the cover, and what each page looks like; I make constant notes on my iPhone or random scraps of paper each time a content idea pops into my head; and I fret continuously about how exactly I’m going to get it all done.

At first I couldn’t believe we had been given this enormous task of creating an entire magazine alone. That’s not how it works in the real world, is it? Teams of writers, sub-editors, graphic designers and photographers create magazines; lots of people each with their own talent, coming together and pooling these talents to create a team.

But me, I am just one. One writer. Albeit with enough knowledge of InDesign to make a convincing layout, and a barely professional digital camera. Hmm.

I embarked on this project determined to do the best I could under the circumstances, telling myself I would never have to be a master of all talents again.

Except as the term began and we settled into the routine of our timetable, with weekly individual tutorials and group tutorials, I realised I wasn’t creating this magazine alone at all.

We have group tutorials with other students covering similar topics (I am in the specific audience group, teens and men) and one tutor. We explain our concept and tell the group what we’ve done towards our project in the past week, and what issues we’ve encountered. Reiterating our concepts every week seemed unnecessary at first, but it forces you to express your idea succinctly and clearly. There is no confusion in your mind, or anyone else’s, about what exactly it is you are working towards.

As we each discuss our progress, you may learn a new research process or explain to someone else the best place to find government statistics online for free. The group can dissect any issues or problems and are solutions found together. For example, a student also doing a teen magazine was struggling to find focus groups with girls under 16 due to restrictions and the need for a CRB. I suggested going into a school where the teachers know her, such as her own school, as I did. Often the tutor has little input except to guide us, and we lead the tutorial ourselves. During the week if we see anything that might help another student, we make a mental note to share it in the next session.

We talk through everything, from what magazine name sounds cool, to what would make an interesting feature. You never have to make a decision alone because there are is a whole class of experts there to help you decide – our lectures and seminars often descend into a mass tutorial, all we can talk about at the moment is our Final Major Projects!

I may have my class to turn to for advice, but I also have the college to fill in all the other talent gaps. Every term the college holds a ‘Work it Out Wednesday’ evening: photographers, stylists, journalists and illustrators from every course meet and network. At a recent meet I moved from person to person with a big smile and a clutch of images to represent my project, and sought out the talent.

My magazine is now safe from my own dodgy photography – I have a whole list of brilliant, student photographers I can call upon! And if I decide to spread the writing load, I can choose from several first and second year journalists eager to practice their writing.

I was mistaken: I am not alone. My friends, my class and my college are my team.


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