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

Citizen journalist


Tweet to Aggers and reply

Proper journalists such as me are supposed to hate citizen journalists. In fact, we’re supposed to call them “witness contributors” or something else suitably PC, according to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). Well I don’t. I like citizen journalists. I like a lot of user-generated content.

I like the fact that communities get involved, tell us stuff, send in reports and photos and now take video and audio and comment. It adds loads and takes away nothing. I too am a citizen journalist – last week for BBC Radio’s cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew and for Test Match Special. Continue reading

Treasury audio

George Osbrone giving budget speechYesterday I recorded Treasury press officer, Andrea Geoghegan, refusing to give me information she had to hand revealing exactly how much worse off the Treasury thinks the Budget will make families. I published it on Audioboo and wrote about it on Daily Finance. It has caused a stink.

Does the press officer deserve it? Should I have named her? Did I give her a fair chance? I’ll tell you how I behaved writing my “Treasury tries to kill Budget cost story” then you decide. Continue reading