A few days before the 2013 federal election, I learned that I had been offered a place in the Master of Journalism course at the University of Melbourne's Centre for Advancing Journalism. I will study part-time, commencing in March 2014, while continuing with freelance and contract web development.
In a way, I could see this as finally acting on one of my childhood ambitions. The seeds may have been planted by my mother writing for a suburban newspaper network (the same job she has held for thirty years) and my parents buying three newspapers a day. In my final year of secondary school, I got as far as sitting the Journalism Entrance Test at RMIT, but was steered into a generalist Arts degree at Melbourne (eventually majoring in history) and got distracted by more academic ambitions.
I wasn't mature enough for the newspaper business when I was eighteen. Now I'm about to enter the profession with maturity, experience, and technical and small business skills that are more relevant to today's changing media industry. I can't imagine being employed by one newspaper company for thirty years; there may not even be many newspaper jobs by the time I graduate. However, data analysis and web development are going to be increasingly useful in understanding and interpreting our world in the coming decades. I am excited by the course at Melbourne because it looks, at least in theory, to be oriented towards future directions in journalism as well as building foundations in traditional investigative and research skills.
I was notified of my offer sooner than I expected; this gave me something to look forward to for after the election. I have been feeling a bit lost since leaving academia. I have enjoyed the intellectual challenge of building up my web development and programming skills and contributing to the Drupal community, but working on short-term projects for a range of clients hasn't given me a sense of a professional direction. Volunteering for an election campaign gave me some direction and focus, but with a well-defined expiry date.
I feel this direction may be a way of pulling together various threads in my professional and activist past - a desire to help tell untold stories, and to bring together quantitative analytical rigour and the writer's craft. More fundamentally, journalism is a natural home for some of my most fundamental values - free expression, empathy, and openness of mind - values that are so ingrained that I have taken them for granted.