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MA in Journalism: Postgraduate Profile - Adam Leahy

MA in Journalism student Adam Leahy
MA in Journalism student Adam Leahy

Can you please introduce yourself? Can you explain why you chose the MA in Journalism?

I’m Adam! I’m a student on the MA in Journalism course 2021/22.

I decided to take on the MA as a way of upskilling in a short, sharp, focused burst to help work my way into the field.

I started out on the road towards journalism almost 10 years ago and, having taken different career paths along the way, felt that a bit of a reboot would help ease that transition now.

I’ve always worked adjacent to media. In theatre, in video games, in marketing and communications. So I’ve luckily already built up many of the skills the MA is currently putting a finer point on. But I felt to really give it an earnest go, it’d be a smart move to get a direct qualification and focused grounding instead of ambling blindly into a newsroom.

I decided to take on the MA as a way of upskilling in a short, sharp, focused burst to help work my way into the field.

Why at UL? How did you find out about the course?

I did my research.

There’s a lot of journalism MA programmes on offer in Ireland. They seem to focus on a variety of media disciplines to different degrees and extents. Some more than others.

The course here at UL seemed to have the most diverse overview in that it covered the spectrum of skills a contemporary journalist needs to enter the field without veering too deeply into one particular discipline so much that it would neglect another.

Oddly, what attracted me to it most wasn’t the writing or theory classes, but its inclusion of a media law class. I think that’s really valuable. In the workplace, for a journalist at least, it’s prerequisite that you be able to write/record/shoot video. So talent isn’t necessarily the employment advantage most people would assume. But having a grasp of how the work you do may come into contact with the law or the legislative bindings that might impact you in the workplace, that’s a real advantage. In my eyes anyway. I know a lot of people would disagree.

From a personal point of view, I also did my undergrad at UL. Moving back to a city, and indeed a campus, that I already knew made easing the transition from the professional world back to education after 30 a lot less stressful.


What specific aspects of your course have impressed you the most? What is the best thing about the course?

I’ve been impressed so far by the slate of lecturers and tutors hosting the course’s modules currently.

During my undergrad (English and New Media), a lot of the staff were theory heads. Excellent minds. But theoretical minds. I benefitted from that hugely in terms of learning the ropes of critical theory, but I worried there’d be a similar bent in the staffing of this course as I was looking for something a little more hands on.

I’ve been really impressed that this isn’t the case on the MA programme. By and large, every lecturer so far has been an established, respected practitioner.

This, for me at least, is pretty important when trying to segue onto a new career path. Learning from people who have been out in the field – working in radio stations, editing regional and national publications, etc. – is huge.

Of course learning theory is hugely important too, but for anyone looking to plunge into a working trade – to hone the practical skills that made me opt to do an MA in the first place – learning from practitioners is pretty important and hugely valuable. I mean you could read all the books about carpentry in the world, but does that automatically imply you can make a chair?


What experiences/opportunities has it presented you with? (e.g academic facilities, workshops, academic support, guest speakers, etc)

As I mentioned before, I’ve been really grateful to have the opportunity to work with lecturers and tutors who’ve got real experience in their fields. I’ve found the hands-on approach and real-life advice they give to be infinitely valuable.

What’s felt even more valuable is the opportunity to share the journey with others on the course so far. We’re all finding our feet and establishing our skills at the moment. Having a bunch of folks in the same boat, looking to learn from and support one another, has been huge.

I’ve also had the opportunity, by virtue of the work I’ve done on the course so far, to have my work published in some publications that I really respect – the Irish Examiner, the Limerick Post, and, of course, UL’s own An Focal and Limerick Voice.

That’s one avenue of opportunity I think shouldn’t be overlooked. The encouragement lecturers and tutors (as well as others on the course!) give us to get involved in practical work experience.


Can you provide an insight into how the course is delivered and how you are assessed?

Sure! It won’t be too surprising for anyone who’s been in an academic structure before to find out there are lectures and labs and tutorials. But the breakdown of that has been great.

There seems to be an even split between lecturing hours and practical hours, which means plenty of attention is put into developing hard and soft skills for work after graduation.

There are set labs and workshops for modules that focus on specific skills – for example radio or TV production. Getting that practical time is key.


What else (other than course learning outcomes) have you gained from the course?

Quite a lot!

A number of elements across the modules I’ve completed so far have focused on real-life simulations of workplace scenarios. These are really beneficial (and really stressful!). Part of my whole rational in approaching this course is to get myself work ready. So to have assignments and segments of the course based on simulating these kinds of scenarios is huge. I can feel the mental muscles and skills building, which I’m confident will have a lasting benefit.

What’s also been a big one is the contacts and connections you make. From the others on the course, who will undoubtedly go on to become great industry professionals and colleagues in whatever respect, to the guest lecturers and speakers who have given their time to speak with us and share a couple of war stories.


Would you recommend the programme to others?

Undoubtedly, yes. Though I would urge anyone considering an MA of any kind to weigh up their options seriously and consider what they want to get out of it.

A lot of people see an MA as a mandatory supplement to an undergrad degree, and so rush into the commitment as a matter of obligation rather than one of vocation.

I chose this because I saw it as a useful stepping-stone towards a goal. And so far it’s proving very successful in that.


Any advice/tips for prospective students of the course?

Try to do as much independent learning as you can, especially in technical production elements. Even better if you can do it before you start the course.

An MA is short. There isn’t the same amount of time as on an undergrad for doing deep dives into software and programmes – which are hugely important in contemporary journalism, especially when it comes to editing and preparing audio or video packages.

Having even the smallest grounding in how things are edited or produced will stand to you as a huge advantage, as it means you’ll be honing and improving skills in a constructive environment, rather than learning them from the ground up.


Full course details and page:

Journalism MA (incorporating MAJ, Sport) | UL - University of Limerick