NCE award-winner and regional newspaper journalist Mary Hamilton shares her tips for passing the news practice element of the National Council for the Training of Journalists’ (NCTJ) senior qualification, the National Certificate Examination.
The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) has presented plans to make its qualification more relevant to the digital age, as reported by Journalism.co.uk in December last year.
Senior board members discussed the proposals with current students at the third annual NCTJ Student Council, held at the Guardian‘s Kings Cross offices on Friday.
The day also saw the NCTJ preview a sleek new website which they hope to have online by the end of February.
Chief executive Joanne Butcher outlined a vision to broaden the NCTJ into a converged training body providing a ‘gold standard’ multimedia journalism qualification.
She said: “The core skills remain the same as ever, but the new qualification will have more of an emphasis on multimedia.”
The new qualification, which will be taught from September, will see integration of public affairs and media law examinations and the introduction of broadcasting into the qualification.
Shevon Houston, events and website manager for the NCTJ, previewed the new website for the 43 delegates who attended. She said the “fresh, dynamic, easy to navigate” interface would replace the current cluttered design.
The new site includes a searchable database of accredited courses, as well as a student and trainee login area which people enrolled on NCTJ programmes can use to check exam results and find job vacancies.
There is also a forum for students and trainees to debate issues.
Plans to modify the current industry-benchmark shorthand exam were also discussed.
At present, all candidates must be able to take down 100 words per minute for four minutes with a maximum of 10 errors. But, in order to test candidates’ listening skills, from September they will have to identify a quote within a passage and take it down with perfect accuracy to pass the test.
Journalism students were told that they needed to be “persistent nosey gossips” by Society of Editors’ executive director Bob Satchwell, at the NCTJ’s student council meeting at Guardian News & Media on Friday.
The annual event brings together students from NCTJ-accredited courses, NCTJ staff and board members as well as working professionals.
Students were given the chance to question the panel of experts, who offered advice on becoming employed.
Managing editor of the Sun, Graham Dudman, said not to submit a CV that is more than one page long.
“You’re not that interesting,” he said, “keep it short and to the point. That is where you are going to score.”
Dudman also claimed that if there are any spelling mistakes in an application it will instantly go in the bin.
Editor of Easyjet magazine, Jeroen Bergmans, echoed Dudman’s comments on spelling mistakes, adding that some even spell his name wrong.
Dave King, editor of the Swindon advertiser advised trainees that the one essential quality is shorthand, stating that “without 100wpm you won’t get a look in”.
Other advice given was to avoid looking lazy by addressing a cover letter with the word ‘sir’ instead of the editor’s name. Brien Beharrell, editorial director, Newbury Weekly News Group warned that if the phrase “I have a passion for writing” appeared, the applicant would not hear back from her.
Beharrell said she would rather see a demonstration that students are writing regularly, whether for a local newspaper or a university magazine.
Dominic Ponsford, editor of Press Gazette, said what impressed him most was someone who was “fantastically enthusiastic”. He suggested writing your CV as if it were a news story itself, with the most eye-catching information at the top. Ponsford also said you need to have “lots of good ideas”.
The meeting included an open discussion about how to improve the NCTJ in which the board showed a preview of its new website to be launched at the end of this month.
The new site is aimed at being more user-friendly and will also include a forum for student discussion and login areas for students and trainees.
Other future changes will also be seen in the transformation of the NCTJ into a multimedia qualification. Chief executive of the NCTJ, Joanna Butcher said: “The debate about what the core skills should be for multimedia journalists will intensify this year.” Citing the group’s annual report, Butcher said a new board will be set up to develop a “multimedia accreditation strategy”, as previously reported by Journalism.co.uk from the Society of Editors conference in 2008.
The reaction from students and trainees to this news was mixed. While many students on the three-year courses supported the idea, others on the short-courses were worried that they would be “spread too thin”, adding that there was not enough time to learn it all.
There is already an option to include a video report in a portfolio and multimedia entries are encouraged on all courses.
Rebecca Hughes, Centre for Journalism, University of Kent. Twitter: @beccihughes.
The winners of the National Council for the Training of Journalists’ (NCTJ) awards for excellence in journalism were announced today at the Society of Editors annual conference.
The prizes went to:
Student: Tim Fletcher, City of Wolverhampton College
Trainee: Arron Hendy, Dorset Echo
Student: George Scott, News Associates, London
Trainee: David Jordan, Grimsby Telegraph
Student: Juliet Conway, Brighton Journalist Works (winner)
Student: Jessica Shankleman, Cardiff University (highly commended)
Features of the year
Student: Harriet Webster, NoSWeat Journalism Training
Trainee: Emily Koch, Bristol Evening Post
Images of the year
Student: Bethany Clarke, The Sheffield College, Norton
Trainee: Leah McLaren, Derby Telegraph
Awards for the best performance in examinations leading to the NCTJ Preliminary Certificate in Newspaper Journalism, NCE for Reporters and NCE for photographers were also presented:
NCTJ Student Journalist of the Year: Mary Hamilton, Press Association Training
NCTJ Photographer of the Year: Hannah Kinver, South Wales Evening Post
NCTJ Reporter of the Year: Victoria Carr, Wetherby News
The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) has been promoting shorthand week this week – part of the organisation’s campaign emphasising the importance of shorthand in a journalist’s toolkit.
The campaign was featured on Radio 4 today, encouraging presenter John Humphrys to demonstrate his Pitman skills. The BBC website is asking if anyone can decipher his script.
Whether you agree with those or not (and feel free to tell us in the comments below), I thought I’d match Humphrys with a picture of my own Teeline scrawl – though apparently the Radio 4 man doesn’t think this counts in comparison to Pitman.
(No prizes for guessing which bit means iPhone)
When I learned shorthand, we had a few competitions as incentives to get us up to speed – in that vein, please send us images of your shorthand and I might even be able to rustle up a prize from my desktop for the neatest outlines.
Feel free to email images or send Twitpics to @journalismnews.
Two UK industry awards focusing on new journalists have announced their shortlists for 2009.
The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) Excellence in Journalism Awards cover six categories and recognise the best journalism students completing NCTJ-accredited courses and journalists/photographers with less than two years’ experience on the job.
The full shortlist is available on the NCTJ awards site. The winners will be announced at the Society of Editors conference on November 16.
The winners of the eight categories will be announced at a ceremony on November 20.
“Just don’t mention the m-word – ‘merger’,” whispered my neighbour at Friday’s Association of Journalism Education (AJE) conference before we entered the final session on the role of the accrediting and qualification bodies and the future of journalism training in the UK.
Efforts to bring the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) and Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC) together under a Joint Journalism Training Council forum are ongoing and having spoken to interested parties before, Journalism.co.uk has been told that while a single accrediting body is desirable, the two groups are very different beasts, with different structures and remits.
According to panellist at the event and BJTC secretary Jim Latham, the next meeting between the two bodies is scheduled for this week.
“We [previously] allowed ourselves to become distracted by some issues that shouldn’t have got in the way (…) There should only be one accrediting body, but the devil is in the detail,” conceded Latham.
Going forward, less focus will be placed on the differences between the groups – in particular the NCTJ’s revenue streams – and what can be done jointly.
Both BJTC and NCTJ representatives on the panel where cautious about giving a merger date.
“I think Jim and I are largely in agreement about a single body. How we’re going to achieve that remains open to debate,” said Joanne Butcher, director of the NCTJ.
Demand for a single accrediting body was challenged by some members of the audience, support by others.
“The world has changed the definition of what a journalist is. Convergence isn’t the future, it’s already happened,” said Tim Luckhurst, professor at the University of Kent’s Centre of Journalism.
“I only wish we could have one gold standard body (…) It cannot happen quickly enough. It needs to have a single set of exams. The NCTJ wants to make its mark – one way it could do this is by setting a single gold standard for journalism.”
As part of tomorrow’s today’s National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) skills conference in Manchester, delegates from the event were yesterday treated to a tour of the Manchester Evening News‘ newsroom.
Journalism.co.uk is much obliged to MEN’s Sarah Hartley for the slideshow of the tour below, which appeared originally on the paper’s The Mancunian Way blog:
As part of the tour, MEN editor Paul Horrocks explained how the newsroom has helped teams from the group’s daily and weekly titles – and Channel M staff – integrate:
Her Twitter coverage of the tour can be seen on @foodiesarah @sarah_hartley.
I am now on week seven of my NCTJ course at Lambeth College, London.
As previous posts to the Journalism.co.uk forum will prove, I spent a large amount of time wondering whether or not to do an NCTJ course – was it worth the money and the time? Did I want to concentrate on news when I was a features writer?
I spoke to a few working journalists in the hope they could make the decision for me, but surprisingly opinion was mixed, especially in the dreaded shorthand debate (a national newspaper journalist I know doesn’t have a word of shorthand).
With the benefit of hindsight here’s my two-pence on the NCTJ:
It’s worth every penny.
Even if you want to be a features writer the NCTJ is a well-recognised qualification within the industry. There is a magazine equivalent but I’m not sure if it’s so well-known or respected.
I can only speak for the course at Lambeth but I am staggered by how much I already know about journalism, the government and the law and I can’t imagine walking into any publication – features or news – without it.
The Lambeth Course
The fast-track course at Lambeth is only 18 weeks. It’s Monday to Thursday and they expect you to spend your Fridays on work experience. The homework and revision has me working literally all the time.
The fees are £800 (international £3,390) at the moment and, according to the college website, are set to remain at that level for next February and September’s courses as well.
After that there is talk of the fees going up to a couple of grand. I found other NCTJ courses in London cost around £3K and some were wildly more expensive so at the moment Lambeth is great value for money.
While Lambeth College and the surrounding area may not be the most attractive place in London or the world (if you want leafy go to NoSweat), the course has an excellent reputation and pass rate.
The entry exam will see you writing a news story from a press release and quotes given to you. My story was about 500 plastic ducks that had been found on the local village pond. Yes, I did put: ‘Villagers thought they were going quackers…’ With phrases like that you better hire me before I get snapped up.
There is also a current affairs test with the usual questions like: ‘Who is the Chancellor?’ etc.
Once you’re on the course it is broken down into four sections:
Mainly geared to hard news writing but I’ve found it really sharpens up feature writing as well.
You are taught what makes news and how to sub your copy to within an inch of its life to make your writing clear and concise.
It’s pretty formulaic but a quick read of any news story in a newspaper, national or local, applies the same principles.
Favourite quote from the teacher so far: “This is probably the hardest exam you will ever do.”
Using the trusty tome ‘McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists’ you deal with all aspects of media law. Defamation made me want to lie down in a dark room. You also get out in the field: we went to the Jean Charles De Menezes inquest this week.
Or ‘how central and local government works’. It’s an absolute minefield and I have no idea how councils function with the amount of regulations they must adhere to. Very interesting stuff however and satisfying when you read the paper and see what makes the political news – Russian Yacht trip anyone?
Favourite quote from the teacher so far: “If the council like you, then you’re not doing your job properly.”
Ah, the beast you must tame. To pass the exam you must be able to write 100 words per minute (this is only a C grade however, in other words, just a pass).
That’s a tall order in only 18 weeks but it can be done. The teacher says you must do two hours a night practice and she ain’t joking…
It’s two hours a night or re-take the exam. I am at around 50wpm now and it’s only week 7 – cue the ticker tape. If I can do it anyone can.
Favourite quote from the teacher so far, said after a discussion on the importance of keeping letters neat.: “If your colleague walks under a bus, then you need to be able to translate their shorthand.”
You also have to complete a portfolio of work, i.e. cuttings, but these don’t necessarily need to be published.
If you’re currently doing a journalism course, at a college or at a distance, then let us know how it’s going in the comment box below. What’s good, what’s bad?
It would also be interesting and helpful to hear from industry people with their thoughts on the NCTJ:
- Do you think it’s worth it?
- What are your criticisms of it – the video and online aspects perhaps?
- Would you hire someone with an NCTJ over someone without?
- What do you think of the magazine equivalent course?
Calling all feature writers and magazine editors – NCTJ, do you need it?
A quick heads-up that the NCTJ online survey is still open, which first launched in September. The idea is to get feedback to help re-shape journalism training and qualifications provision.
It takes about ten minutes to do, and will close on Wednesday October 8. The big question behind it all: how can training can meet the needs of employers in the multimedia world?
Editors can give their views here: www.qualasys.com/nctj_survey_2008_industry.htm
Heads of journalism running accredited courses can give their feedback here: www.qualasys.com/nctj_survey_2008_providers.htm