Tag Archives: student journalism

NCTJ accreditation: essential or an outdated demand?

The value of industry body accreditation in journalism has been at the centre of debate this week, following a meeting of the NCTJ’s cross-media accreditation board last week, where members raised concerns about the impact of potential education funding cuts on the journalism industry.

Quoted in a report from the NCTJ Professor Richard Tait, director of the Centre of Journalism Studies at Cardiff University, argued that accredited courses must be protected in the face of cuts.

While the NCTJ is quite right to insist on sufficient resources and expertise so that skills are properly taught and honed, education is a competitive market, and NCTJ courses are expensive to run. In the likely cuts ahead, it is vital for accredited courses to retain their funding so that they are not forced to charge students exorbitant fees; otherwise, diversity will be further compromised.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk about his comments further this week, Tait said he was voicing real concerns that courses which meet industry standards may be more at risk because of their expense:

There has been a huge expansion of courses about journalism and about the media, but not all of them are accredited. These are not real journalism courses, they are journalism studies courses. There’s nothing wrong with them at all, some of them are very good courses, but they are not a professional training of journalists.

It’s really important that whatever happens to journalism education we protect those courses that provide this professional training of the journalists of the future.

If you’re running a journalism course that does not have a digital newsroom, does not teach videojournalism or students how to report online or what podcasts are, what’s the use of that? Some universities have invested heavily in these areas. But when money gets short people will say “do we really need this digital newsroom, do we need to teach shorthand etc”. There is a danger of people saying “frankly bad courses might be cheaper”.

Just days after the meeting, Brian McNair, former professor of journalism at Strathclyde University and now working at Queensland University of Technology in Australia, happened to discuss his decision to pull Strathclyde’s journalism course out of NCTJ accreditation in 2008 in a post on allmediascotland. His comments, which were picked up by media commentator Roy Greenslade, have since prompted huge debate about the value of the body. In his post McNair said accreditation is not enough:

In a world where (…) the supply of traditional journalism jobs has fallen by as much as 30 per cent (and those that remain are scandalously low-paid), the high flying journalist of the future needs more than NCTJ certificates in Public Affairs and Media Law to get on. He, or she, needs talent, imagination, a spirit of independence, an understanding of IT and social networking and their impact on media, culture and society in general; everything in short, that the NCTJ curriculum squeezed out with its relentless stress on externally-decreed learning by rote.

Many, maybe most, successful journalists never passed an NCTJ exam. NCTJ-certified journalists are being sacked, perhaps as I write, sometimes by editors who sit on NCTJ boards and declare their allegiance to the “gold standard” of training. The old world of print journalism in which the NCTJ was formed is passing into history, replaced by content-generating users, citizen journalists and all those journalistic wannabees who make up the globalised, digitised public sphere in the 21st century.

But while Tait reiterated McNair’s call for talent to be the measure of a journalist, he insisted that accreditation is a vital tool for students:

The problem is that there are a huge number of courses which have got the magic word journalism in them. If you’re a student and you’re looking at this multiplicity of courses and trying to work out what one is up to a certain standard, that’s absolutely essential.

What you’re already seeing in journalism is that it is becoming a profession where who you know is becoming more important than what you know. It should be about talent. I think that if you don’t have the accreditation process, the rigorous approval of courses by accreditation bodies, how can the students work out what to do?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments or by voting in the poll below:

Former journalism student in landmark reporter’s privilege victory

Interesting media law case from the US – a former student journalist at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism will not have to reveal documents or give a testimony about the investigative reporting involved in a case of false imprisonment.

Carolyn Nielsen’s reporting helped free a man who had been wrongfully convicted and was part way through a 45-year sentence:

The ruling in favor of Carolyn Nielsen – who now teaches journalism at Western Washington University in Bellingham – is significant because it recognises no distinction between the ability of a student journalist versus a professional journalist to claim the protection of the reporter’s privilege.

Full post on the Student Press Law Center site at this link…

California journalism students to be provided with iPads

Journalism students at a US university will be given iPads during their course to help them learn to file multimedia news stories from the latest technologies.

According to a release on the University of Southern California’s website, students on the Specialised Reporting course will be given the device as part of training to prepare them for reporting from various locations.

Course professor Bill Celis says the students will be encouraged to “push the boundaries” of the device in their production of multimedia journalism.

“Students can file stories from the field that include audio and slideshows. I’m teaching the same vital journalism skills I’ve always taught while ensuring the students have experience in the latest and emerging technologies.”

Hat tip: phoneArena.com

Teacher’s defamation suit against student newspaper dismissed

A music teacher who filed a defamation suit following an article written by a high-school student has had her case dismissed by a county judge.

According to a report by MyNews4, Kathleen Archey, a teacher at Churchill High School in Nevada, claimed student Lauren MacLean’s student newspaper report outlining parental complaints about the way students were selected for a choir competition was defamatory and negligent.

MacLean wrote that she tried to interview Archey to get her side of the story. Archey said MacLean pursued her; even after she refused to talk. Archey claimed defamation and sued MacLean’s faculty advisor, the principal, the superintendent and a local newspaper that picked up the story.

The faculty advisor issued a statement to the news site following the dismissal of the case.

The decision proves what I said the entire time–my reporter Lauren did everything correctly, told the truth, and that’s been proven with the dismissal of the lawsuit on the grounds of frivolity. There were no grounds to it whatsoever. The judge stated there was not a single sentence in the article that was untrue or defamatory.

Hatip: Techdirt

#TNTJ – the return of a blog and information network for young journalists

TNTJ, or Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists, was set up to provide an informal blogging network for young journalists to share their experiences of the industry and debate, discuss and dissect the issues affecting their fledgling careers.

We’re relaunching the blog network under the same criteria, but with some new features planned. Every month there will be a new question or topic up for discussion. If you join TNTJ, we’d like your views on it, but we also want you to blog on your own site too to spread the word. It’s an opportunity to make new contacts, get advice and promote yourself online – you can create a user profile for all your posts on the TNTJ site.

In addition to the monthly debates, we’ll post events, opportunities, interviews and advice that we think would interest our TNTJ members. Please feel free to do the same.

To sign up, please click ‘Register’ in the sidebar or click here to register. ANYBODY can sign-up, so long as you:

1) Are younger than 30-years-old;
2) And you blog about journalism/are interested in taking part in an online discussion about journalism.

Enter your details, and soon we’ll activate your account so you can post your entry. Bear with us while we do that – it’s not an automated process, but we’ll be quick as we can.

The revamped TNTJ will be moderated by a team of young journalists, who we’ll be introducing shortly along with a question for August. You can also follow the blog on Twitter, @TNTJ.

Let’s get blogging!

Vicious fights and low stakes: the difficulties of covering a student election

Henry Kissinger once remarked: “University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” It is a quote regularly bandied about in the midst of student union elections, which can be bitter. Dirty politics rears its ugly head in university and college election campaigns as often as it does in mainstream politics.

We in the student media are part of the same game. The hunger for news stories which will excite our readers means that controversy created by fall-outs between candidates is often a gift. The concentration on personality involved in a student election is just the same as we have seen during this general election. We are just as likely to publicise the vicious side of a campaign in order to extract exciting stories from a game with stakes as low as Kissinger believed them to be. But is the role of a student journalist the same as those covering and commenting on parliamentary and council elections, or do student publications have different responsibilities? Similarly, is the level of responsibility that comes with unregulated student media something that should be given to student journalists?

Most university campuses in Britain are served by no more than two student newspapers, meaning that we are faced with a lack of plurality. There is very seldom the equivalent of the range of political sympathy we have across the national press. If a student paper decides to show bias towards a candidate in a student election, the effect on the electorate can be significant. Taking sides in this respect can stifle discussion and debate, giving one candidate an unfair advantage.

Student media should be careful to ensure that bias does not suppress fair coverage and debate in these elections. Student politicians standing for office deserve to have their policies scrutinised and should be open to criticism and comment from the press. It is undesirable for the student press to run campaigns similar to those we see in the tabloids, backing one party and smearing others. The media plays an important role in questioning all elected representatives and holding them to account – a key part of the democratic process.

The emphasis should be on balance. It is important for democracy that student voters are given the opportunity to read news about candidates and are given the opportunity to question them. Journalists should be allowed to scrutinise and where appropriate query policy. However, personal attacks are a hindrance to fair elections, they damage the reputation of student journalism and undermine its function.

A number of student newspapers are constitutionally bound to provide fair and accurate coverage by the students’ unions that fund them. Where these unions do have control over the paper constitutionally, they can refuse to allow the papers to be distributed on their premises.

In a recent case at Edinburgh Napier university, copies of Napier Students’ Association funded Veritas were removed from campus because they were deemed to give one candidate in the elections there an unfair advantage over another. This came only days after Edinburgh-wide student newspaper the Journal was almost removed from university buildings because of an article reporting on a motion of no-confidence in the NSA President, who was standing for re-election at the time. The decision was taken by the Association’s election committee, apparently to ensure that no bias towards one candidate was communicated to the electorate. This was an example of ‘impartiality’ becoming an obstacle – the offending article in this case did not take sides and was a standard news report. Students’ right to know the news and issues surrounding the election of their representatives was curtailed.

Student politics often suffers from a lack of engagement. During my involvement in student media, I have seen editors strive to provide the most engaging coverage of student elections, often with little response. However, student media coverage of the political process at universities is one of the ways in which the electorate are given an opportunity to connect with the system beyond the often-cliquey doors of students’ union buildings. Where reporting is responsible and legal, it should not be subject to filtering from bureaucrats who think it may be damaging.

If the students’ unions themselves are to mediate in these cases, it is essential that criticism and questioning of candidates and representatives is allowed. Most adhere to this and would only intervene in the event of a serious breach, but the existence of an independent arbitrator would also be of benefit for disputes between newspapers and unions.

The Press Complaints Commission or the National Union of Students could issue guidelines on reporting and deal with complaints before drastic measures like removing copies of a publication are taken. This would create a set of rules to be followed and give both sides a port of call when things go wrong. Student journalism would have an increased sense of responsibility and reporting would better serve the electorate, helping to curb the kind of vicious campaigning to which Kissinger refers.

Nick Eardley is deputy editor of Edinburgh University student newspaper the Journal.

Student journalism update: Sky names Bob Friend Scholar, Up To Speed awards announced

Two bits of good news for student journalists to report:

Sky News has named Daniel May as this year’s Bob Friend Memorial Scholar. As part of the scholarship, which was set up in memory of the Sky News presenter after his death in 2008, May will have his first-year tuition fees paid for by Sky, and will spend four weeks in Sky’s newsrooms over the summer.

(You can read the internship diary of last year’s scholar, Alan McGuiness at this link)

Meanwhile in Up to Speed’s student journalism competition two Reading University students took the top prizes. Biology student Georgina Mills, 20, came first, winning £250, while politics undergraduate Marcus Greenslade, 18, came second, taking £100 respectively. Both Mills and Greenslade write for the Reading student newspaper, Spark!

Third prize (£50) in the competition, which asked entrants to write an article assessing the ‘noughties’ as a decade, went to Robin Morgan, features editor of Gair Rhydd, Cardiff University’s student newspaper.

Currybet.net: Reviewing online student newspapers

Martin Belam is taking a look at the online efforts of the UK’s student newspapers, as part of a series of posts looking at the digital journalism trainees currently in academia and those that have recently graduated.

Some great tips here from a user’s point of view about the design of the newspapers websites – one to watch for student journalists.

Full post at this link…

Any journalism students want to show off their news projects and sites?

Journalism.co.uk has spotted, and been directed to, some interesting and innovative examples of student journalism projects in recent days. Do you want to plug your own efforts? We’d like to see examples of blogs and news sites used for your final, or ongoing, projects – we’ll link to, and showcase them on this blog. Also, you can join in the conversation with other young journalists on the TNTJ blog, at this link. Spread the word!

Here’s one for starters: LondonFile, created by students on the International Journalism postgraduate course at City University.

CollegeJourn.com: Professors join in the Twitter conversation

We’ll link again to a round-up post, but in the meantime here’s the CollegeJourn.com ‘Bring A Professor chat’ from yesterday evening, displayed via CoverItLive. Journalism educators shared their thoughts on ‘how journalism education can be improved’: “what they’re doing right and how, together, we can help redefine the future of journalism and journalism education,” the host, Suzanne Yada, asked the range of US college students and professors.

Update: And here’s the round-up: http://www.collegejourn.com/2009/02/bring-a-professor-chat-wrapup.html