The ISFJ, journalism in the heart

With its three campuses located in Paris, Lille and Lyon, the Institut Supérieur de Formation au Journalisme relies on professionalizing courses. Very quickly confronted with the field, the students immerse themselves with passion in a profession with multiple facets. Interview with Ludovic Place, the director of the ISFJ.

If you had to describe the overall philosophy of the ISFJ, what would it be?

I would say that it is a school that lives like an editorial office, serving the training of students who wish to become journalists. Supervised by information professionals, they are in tune with the news, in all its forms, by being trained in the four main media (written press, web, radio, TV). The idea is for each student to be in a concrete learning situation by producing digital content, a newspaper, presenting a television programme, doing radio. They are constantly in practice. They are students, but already journalists in spirit.

Contrary to a school apprenticeship, this professionalization of the courses is expressed in particular through the alternation from the second year. What are its advantages?

We offer a course Bachelor in three years and one Two-year master’s degree. The first year ends with a six month internship and all other years are carried out in alternation. The alternation, I would say that it is first of all a first foot in the world of business and the media. It’s a real challenge, with a professionalizing reality. Our students can rely on our company relations unit to get an apprenticeship contract, redo a CV, be coached for a job interview. We also organize recruitment days on campus. We distribute offers that arrive daily and, of course, use our address book. Whether they are at Paris, Lyon or Lilleour students apply to both national and regional newsrooms.

“A progressive introduction to the specificities of each journalism”

From a pedagogical point of view, how are the courses structured?

The first year, we will structure the student’s training, with good practices and a progressive introduction to the specificities of each journalism. We take the opportunity to explore sports and cultural journalism, etc. In the second year, they will continue to familiarize themselves with so-called niche journalism such as fashion, politics, science. In the third year, we will explore the long term, the investigation, investigative journalism. All students complete their Bachelor cycle by producing a 13-minute television journalistic investigation. In parallel, there are of course all the theoretical courses on ethics, deontology, mastery of an angle, geopolitics. Since we are members of the Network of specialized Grandes Ecoles (GES), our students can complete their training by joining, for example, the third year of the EFET Bachelor Photography. In the fourth and fifth year, they can take a semester course in fashion communication via the Mod’Art International school, or digital marketing at ECITV.

Is this maximum professionalization linked to the increasing recruitment of versatile journalists?

Yes, we are talking about mobile journalists, as comfortable speaking as in writing or behind a camera. We are in the porosity of skills. This is why, beyond the grade, we will look at what is publishable or not among our students through their respective work. We insist on versatility, yes, but also on solution journalism and many other levers. Their productions can very well appear in a CV and, thus, increase their chances of being hired under contract.

“Permanently in tune with developments in the sector”

What is the objective of the many organized master classes?

In addition to the courses provided by working journalists, we organize master class with personalities from the profession. They come to discuss their journey, their trajectory, to give their advice. It is important for the school to be constantly in touch with developments in the sector. This is why we have set up a professional development council, itself made up of journalists, top reporters and producers. Being Qualiopi certified, we ensure that each student is well trained and placed in a company at the end of their course.

What are the prospects for the sector in terms of outlets?

Many are moving towards digital journalism and video subjects. The image and the audiovisual in general occupy an important place. Some go to work locally, others start in radio, even in production or digital communication. The placement of students reflects the image of the profession, with journalists working freelance or under contract, depending on the opportunities. Alternation is an open door to continuity. The more you improve your skills, the more you develop your network and the more you have the possibility of finding work. Our courses multiply our students’ ability to adapt.

Finally, in your opinion, how to explain such an attraction of students for journalism?
It is a responsible job that goes against what can be said on social networks. They and they come looking for a job that will solidify democracy, a sector perceived as a fourth power, in balance with the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. It is an exceptional profession in what it offers and allows. This is why we make our students aware very early on that this is not a gimmicky, glitzy job. We practice this profession by passion or vocation.

The ISFJ, journalism in the heart