How to choose a journalism course – BJTC/NCTJ/PPA

I get asked for advice on journalism courses, so I thought it easiest to post it here. There are three journalism accreditation bodies in the UK (alphabetically):

All three now validate and accredit courses that are multimedia to some extent.

Some local newspaper editors still insist on NCTJ so if you absolutely want to work in that (lowest paid) sector of journalism, you must do the NCTJ certificate. It involves a lot of exams. However, the NCTJ qualification will not restrict you to that sector and is widely recognised across the media. The NCTJ does a broadcast course but it is not to the same standard as the BJTC.

The NCTJ requires shorthand. Shorthand is a good thing, if you can learn it (some people with disabilities cannot). The BJTC and PPA do not require shorthand but some courses accredited by them do teach it.

Some courses are accredited by more than one body. Some courses are accredited by none. There are also short courses that are not accredited. Some courses not accredited are good at what they do. Some courses get given longer accreditation periods with fewer caveats than other courses.

For all these reasons, I suggest you decide what journalism you want to do and ask questions of your own. Here are some possible questions for journalism courses:

  1. How much does the course cost and are any bursaries or grants available?
  2. What’s the class size and how many contact hours are there? How much out-of-hours help is there?
  3. Is the course accredited by an industry body and, if so, which one? If not, why not? Ask to see the most recent report and see how different reports compare.
  4. What qualification, if any, is attached to the course?
  5. How much of the course (including visiting lecturers) is taught by practising journalists or experienced former journalists? When did they last report or work in a newsroom?
  6. Does the course include work experience and, if so, where and for how long? How much help is given in arranging this? Where have previous students done their work experience?
  7. Does the curriculum cover the practical skills and context you will need for a job that interests you (for example, subs will l need to learn copy editing, page make-up, use of Adobe InDesign, journalism law and ethics)?
  8. What equipment is used on this course (PCs, Macs, phones, cameras, editing suites and so on)? How much is available, how old is it, and how many students share it?
  9. What proportion of recent graduates are working as journalists, where and how much are they earning?

Good luck

Journalism is harder work for less money

Journalism has got harder. Journalists have to contact more people, more often, using email, phone and sometimes social media, such as Twitter or LinkedIn, just to get an answer. And this is all for the same money, or often less.

More PRs are barriers to information rather than enablers. It takes longer and more effort to get fewer, less interesting answers. And then you get hassled for writing the truth. Continue reading

FCA PR queries

screen grab

FCA press office contacts

I don’t believe the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) press office answered my questions at all. Do you? My email correspondence is in this blog.

The FCA is the super-regulator for the financial services industry. It took a public pounding from MPs and a published report last year over briefing a journalist too much information too early. Perhaps it is being over-cautious now.

There’s a less email-heavy version of this on my business website Wheal Associates (new window), which includes more on the FCA’s problems last year.  This post contains the detail of my correspondence. Continue reading

Marriage rules

driving licence with points

Whose points were they?

A Leveson inquiry into the Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce speeding points case would recommend statutory regulation of all married couples.

The call would be backed by academics who were no longer married or who no longer drove (or both) and a celebrity campaign group called Driven Off. And the Leveson report would state Pryce’s name was Price (with an i) changed to sound posh – because an un-verified Wikipedia page said so. Continue reading

Graduate advice

I had a letter from a graduate that was just so appalling – they invariably are – that I started to write to tell him. My wife said the criticism might be enough to push him over the edge so I stopped myself.

She’s probably right. But how is he ever to know that he is getting it so wrong? As his errors were similar to errors I see in these sorts of begging letters all the time I wondered if I should share the lessons. Of course I am an arrogant know-it-all, but this is what I would have sent: Continue reading

Letter to my MP

Big benn and a streetlight

The press must be able to shine a light on politicians

I have written to my MP, Joan Ruddock, asking for her support for press freedom against proposals for legislation to introduce a regulator. The text is below:

Dear Ms Ruddock

Please do not vote for any legislation to establish a regulator of the press. There has been a long-established principle that the state should not intervene in the freedom of the press and this remains important.

Please stick to principles. Please do not vote for statutory regulation (or regulation with a statutory backstop) just because the Labour Party is in opposition and wants to give the government a bloody nose (as it did recently over the zero budget increase for Europe). This is too important for yah-boo politics. Continue reading

“Trusted friends”

Leveson

Leveson reading a “trusted friend”?

Leveson’s report includes just 456 words on magazines, if you exclude the case studies on OK, Heat and Hello. It makes just two references to the “4,765 business to business magazines” and barely touches too on the “515 consumer magazines” he mentions.

Leveson does say: “Whereas newspapers are essentially ephemeral, and understandably have developed a reputation as tomorrow’s fish and chip wrappers, magazines are kept and referred to because they are considered to be a “trusted friend”.

He also says: “Most of these consumer magazines are specialist interest titles of varying sorts and are not engaged in the sort of news and current affairs reporting, or reporting on individuals, with which the Inquiry is primarily concerned.”

So the question for Leveson is, why try to regulate them? The question for the NUJ is why they called for huge swathes of their honest and ethical members to be treated like criminals?

 

Fine for Leveson

Leveson

Leveson, wrong, wrong and then wrong again

The press were fascinated by Leveson today but the public were interested in the simultaneous event going on in court where SAS soldier Danny Nightingale was released – after a press campaign to free him. Hurrah for the press.

Leveson did not ask for examples of good journalism, only bad, so that’s all he got. The Leveson report is an example of biased research and reporting. A statutory regulator would fine him and demand a right of reply. Continue reading