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Kelvin MacKenzie sparks big debate on journalism training

Kelvin MacKenzie’s rubbishing of journalism courses has sparked a heated debate across numerous websites.

“There’s nothing you can learn in three years studying media at university that you can’t learn in just one month on a local paper,” he wrote in today’s Independent, saying he would shut down the colleges.

This post on Wannabe Hacks gives four reasons why MacKenzie is wrong and makes this interesting observation of why the former Sun editor – who has only one O-level – ended up in journalism.

This is key for me: the fact Mr MacKenzie had no choice but to scrap at a local paper when he was 16. He had few prospects and no options beyond an early entrance to the newsroom. But when you have the chance to go to uni or do a postgrad course, I think it’s natural to want to do so and to push yourself academically. It’s not for everyone and the jury’s out as to whether courses do you good. But let’s not take advice from a man who didn’t have a choice.

Over on Jon Slattery’s blog, he points out it is not the correct climate for newspapers to take on trainees.

The trouble with the local press route into journalism is how are regional newspapers going to take on trainees when they are cutting staff? Look at today’s news. Midland News Association, publisher of Britain’s biggest selling regional, the Wolverhampton-based Express & Star, is planning 90 [95] redundancies.

The National Council for the Training of Journalists agrees. HoldtheFrontPage has this interview with the chief executive of the NCTJ, Joanne Butcher.

She said: “Kelvin MacKenzie, of course, exaggerates to make some valid points about media degree courses and the value of learning the journalist’s craft by cutting your teeth on a local paper.

“But he does seem stuck in a time warp. Unlike when Kelvin trained on the South East London Mercury and was sent away to college, newspapers simply don’t take on many raw recruits these days.

In this post, a journalism student from University of Central Lancashire, Wordsmith, also argues the difficulties in being accepted on a paper directly from school.

On papers you don’t have time to fail, because of the pressure on you and the hundreds of people waiting to take your job.

A blog post on Rantings of a Sub Editor suggests a non-journalism degree first does help and some training, in a sub’s case the “basics of libel, copyright and privacy law, which are essential, a grounding in public affairs – local and national – and a working knowledge of Quark” and Substuff has some pretty good advice for wannabe journalists too.

Roy Greenslade also believes it is important to get a university education before going on to take a postgraduate journalism training course and, in this blog post, responds to MacKenzie’s jab at Greenslade’s City University lectureship.

I came up by the same route as Kelvin. He is right about it having been a terrific combination of learning-on-the-job and fun. But that was then, and this is now.

A university education is far better for journalists – and for journalism. It sharpens their critical faculties. It provides a great grounding in the basic skills. It is so good that many graduates are able to step straight into national papers.

Over on the Press Gazette blog, Dominic Ponsford argues MacKenzie “has a point about the ballooning cost of journalism training”.

MacKenzie does highlight a looming problem for the journalism industry, and one which it desperately needs to address. On the whole journalists are nowadays expected to fund their own training (the industry used to provide it on the job via block-release schemes). With first degrees costing up to £9,000 a year, and post-grads another £10,000 on top, and with food and board added in,  you are looking at spending £50,000 to to bag a job which, in the regional press, offers starting pay of £15,000.

How many aspiring journalists are realistically going to do that?

Journalism.co.uk’s earlier comment post – where you can tell us why you think MacKenzie is right, or wrong.

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Judge bans use of Twitter in Raoul Moat accomplices case

March 18th, 2011 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Legal, Social media and blogging

A judge in the case of two men jailed for life this week for helping gunman Raoul Moat reportedly ruled that Twitter could not be used in court.

The Press Gazette and HoldtheFrontPage are reporting that journalists at ncjMedia Ltd, publishers of Newcastle dailies the Evening Chronicle and The Journal, asked to tweet live updates on the trial and verdicts but had their application rejected.

According to HoldtheFrontPage, the judge in the case, Mr Justice McCombe, refused the application because he believed that the interests of justice would be best served by the production of full, balanced reports.

In December, Britain’s most senior judge issued interim guidance stating journalists could use Twitter in court but that approval must be issued by a judge on a case-by-case basis.

The week before the the Lord Chief Justice issued the guidance, the district judge overseeing the second bail hearing of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange gave journalists and others explicit permission to tweet the proceedings.

The Lord Chief Justice is due to carry out a consultation on the use of Twitter in court reporting shortly.

The headline to this post originally read: Judge bans Twitter despite Lord Chief Justice’s guidance

 

 

 

 

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Will the Independent go free?

Well, we don’t know – and nor, according to the Press Gazette, do the new owners, Lebedev Snr and Jnr:

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Johnston Press: Dismantled paywalls are part of year of ‘discovery’

April 1st, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Newspapers, Online Journalism

We’re sure Johnston Press sub-editors on the brink of losing their jobs and staff enjoying an ongoing pay freeze will be glad to know it’s all part of a year of “discovery” for the company.

Yesterday it was reported by HoldtheFrontPage and Press Gazette that local newspaper pay walls, first introduced as part of a three month trial at the end of last year, were coming down.

The Southern Reporter, Northumberland Gazette and Whitby Gazette are no longer offering paid subscriptions and have opened up their content in full. It is not clear if the other titles in the trial will continue to restrict their content online (Carrick Gazette, Worksop Guardian and Ripley and Heanor News were experimenting with directing readers back to the newspaper after a summary of each story).

There are reports of very low subscription rates indeed. HTFP reports:

[A] a source at one of the titles involved in the trial said it had been a “disaster” and that the number of people subscribing had been in single figures.

But Johnston Press refused to reveal any more details: of subscription rates or its future plans. A spokesperson said:

We are not commenting on the test results. We see this year as one of discovery as we test various ideas and learn from the experience of others.

Last week we noted on this blog that despite the redundancies and pay freeze Johnston Press’ top bosses were taking home rather juicy pay packages for 2009 – significantly bigger than those in 2008.

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Jobseeking advice doled out at NCTJ student council meeting

February 15th, 2010 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Events, Jobs, Training

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.

Read more from Journalism.co.uk on the NCTJ student council meeting at this link

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Press Gazette: Wilmington in partnership deal for British Press Awards

October 30th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Events

Following its near closure earlier this year and subsequent acquisition by Progressive Media, there’s been little talk of what would happen to Press Gazette’s annual British Press Awards.

The awards remained with former owner Wilmington and questions were raised over how the prizes could continue without the industry mag to back them.

But according to a PG report, Wilmington will now donate a share of profits from the event to the Journalists’ Charity and run the awards in partnership with the Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA).

Full story at this link…

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Grey Cardigan: Notes from a regional newspaper focus group

September 18th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

Press Gazette’s Grey Cardigan shares a sorry tale from his regional newspaper’s focus group – held in a Travelodge conference room. The off-the-wall complaints leave him pretty irate, but it’s the ‘normal’ who leaves him quietly crying into his cup of warm white wine. Full post at this link…

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#FollowJourn: @martinstabe/online editor

September 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Recommended journalists

#FollowJourn: Martin Stabe

Who? Online editor at Retail Week

What? Former new media editor at Press Gazette; currently online editor for Retail Week magazine. He tracks developments in digital media on his personal blog.

Where? @martinstabe and www.martinstabe.com/blog

Contact? blog [at] martinstabe.com and martin.stabe [at] emap.com

Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips every day, we’re recommending journalists to follow online too. They might be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to judith or laura at journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.

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The Jobless Journalist: Week one – An introduction and redundancy packages

September 1st, 2009 | 4 Comments | Posted by in Job losses, Jobs

This is the first post in a series from an anonymous UK-based journalist recently made redundant. To follow the series, you can subscribe to this feed.

You can also read posts by our previous ‘Redundant Journalist’ blogger at this link.

Week one:
As every hack out there knows, journalism is one of the toughest professions to crack. It’s up there with becoming the Pope, a pilot or a pop star. (I’m being glib – winning X Factor would be far easier.) But seriously, it’s a gruelling process getting a job in journalism.

Twenty-three days and four hours ago I was made redundant from a hard-won job I dearly loved as staff writer on a consumer magazine. The big ‘R’ meant the magazine lost its funding and we were all out on our ears in a matter of weeks.

To make matters worse, it was my first staff job following a backbreaking four months of NCTJ training. I guess it was a wake up call to the harsh reality of the industry.

There was a tortuous period of uncertainty when we thought we had a buyer for the magazine, but I received my P45 last week, and nothing says it’s over like a note from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

As for a redundancy package… well, let’s just say I won’t be lunching at The Wolseley.

Think you’re not entitled to any money? You are. The government provides a certain amount of statutory redundancy pay, although it’s not readily advertised. I’d advise checking out this government website if your employer has also become insolvent.

It’s largely jargon-free and tells you who to contact to recover any outstanding wages and holiday pay, etc. It’s worth knowing that you are entitled to some sort of payout even if you haven’t been continuously employed by the company for two or more years.

Don’t expect miracles overnight – I’m still waiting for my forms from the insolvency practitioner, but I’ll let you know how I get on later in this blog series.

It’s daunting to think about going through the whole rigmarole of applying for jobs again. But while the process of sending off round after round of CVs is utterly depressing, it’s not half as depressing as the prospect of there being no jobs to apply for at all.

According to a story in Press Gazette published in May, the amount of journalists claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance from April 2008 to April 2009 leapt from 770 to 1,880. That’s an increase of almost 150 per cent in one year and only takes into account those on benefits.

There simply aren’t enough jobs to go round and with print media in freefall (thelondonpaper’s on its way out and the Observer’s future is under consideration) the outlook for us jobless journalists is far from rosy.

But if there is one thing I have learned as a journo, you must never ever give up, and with that in mind I’ve decided to use this period of redundancy as an opportunity to reflect on and improve my career.

This blog series will chart my search for a staff job – the applications, the CVs and covering letters, the calling on contacts, the rejections, the interviews and the various attempts to get my foot back in the door.

By sharing tips and anecdotes hopefully this blog will provide support for other unemployed journalists. And if by the end of the series I don’t have a job, at least I’ll know I went down writing.

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FT.com: Birmingham Post ‘might cease daily publication’

July 13th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

At the weekend the FT reported that Birmingham Post might cease daily publication after 152 years, ‘becoming the first flagship newspaper of a large city to go weekly in response to the recession and competition from online media.’

“The circulation of the Birmingham Post has dropped from 18,500 to 12,700 since 2000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Locally, a fully paid circulation of less than 7,000 is spoken of. It is understood that options studied by Trinity Mirror, which owns the white-collar morning title, include converting the lossmaking publication into a weekly title. The media group might publish the Birmingham Mail, an evening newspaper with a blue-collar readership, in the mornings instead. This would trigger wide-ranging redundancies, from delivery drivers to newsagents and journalists in a newsroom that services several titles.”

Full story at this link…

Yesterday, the Press Gazette’s Grey Cardigan said his sources back the report:

“I knew that sales were poor, but I didn’t realise that paid-for copies had dropped to fewer than 7,000 – a claim made by the FT and stood up by my own sources this morning. (Just what you want on the golf course early on a Sunday – a call from Mr Cardigan suggesting that you’re about to lose your job.”

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