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

David Sheppard, Prendergast head, is a liar

David Sheppard, executive head of the Leathersellers’ Federation of Schools, covering Prendergast, is a liar. He lied to parents, then to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and, finally, in open court to the judge in a first tier tribunal, Fiona Henderson.

David Sheppard

Liar: David Sheppard, executive headteacher, Prendergast

Journalists rarely get to write this kind of thing because UK libel law requires such a high burden of proof that it is often safer to leave out uncomfortable facts. But in this case I have a legal ruling as evidence. It follows a Freedom of Information (F0I) request I made back in May 2015. It has taken this long to get a ruling.

The ruling says:

48 i a) We are satisfied that further information was held that was in scope and was not disclosed to the Commissioner, this now forms part of the closed bundle.
b) The document attached to Mr Wheal’s email of 29.7.16 fell within the scope of request 5 and should have been disclosed to Mr Wheal.

Basically the school repeatedly said information did not exist. For example it said it sought advice from lawyers verbally and therefore had no written record of the request and no written response from the lawyers. They were later forced to admit the emails did exist and show the judge.

Everyone knows you get that sort of thing in writing. He lied to them the ICO and the judge.

Truth, Honour, Freedom and Courtesy

That’s the motto of Prendergast school, the original school in the federation.

I have said before that I felt he, and the governors, were not fit to lead an educational establishment. I have now written to the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening. It’s up to her what she does.

Justine Greening,

I attach a recent legal ruling in a first tier tribunal that clearly shows that David Sheppard, Executive Headteacher of Prendergast schools in Lewisham (the Leathersellers’ Federation), repeatedly lied to conceal documents and emails. He lied to parents, then to the Information Commissioner’s Office than then in court during direct questioning by the judge, Ms Fiona Henderson.

In my view such a liar is not fit to hold the office of headteacher. It is gross misconduct and he should be summarily dismissed without notice, without pay, and without compensation or pension.

I leave it for you to deal with as you see fit.

I have copied in my MP, the mayor of Lewisham and the clerk of the Leathersellers livery company.

The legal ruling

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

“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

Citizen journalist

Men-of-Harlech

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

The Last Post

Covers of Post Mga newspaper 1 September 2011 and magazine 8 September 2011

Post Mag redesign 1-8 September 2011

I recently completed 10 months as acting news editor of the insurance industry legend Post Magazine – so called because it was the first magazine ever sent by post. It has been going since 1840. I saw a lot of changes in those 10 months.

We switched format from newspaper to a smaller magazine design. Initially we could still put news on the front page but that was dropped in favour of a magazine cover each week. News stories inside were replaced with more analytical, heavier researched pieces. News went online. Continue reading

End of an era?

aol-money.jpgI stopped commissioning stories for AOL Money this week – Wednesday to be precise. I started commissioning the predecessor site Daily Finance in December 2009. Recently I worked on the design and build of the new site and the integration of DF and its sister title Walletpop into AOL Money.

It has been a labour of love. The old DF CMS tells me “You have written 312,078 words on 522 posts.” I’ve written a fair few thousands words for AOL Money too and I have commissioned millions more. I’ve known it was coming to and end, looked forward to it even, but I’m feeling a bit sad too. Continue reading

Mad Monbiot

George Monbiot

Geroge Monbiot, hosted on The Guardian

Guardian ecology columnist George Monbiot has listed his earnings and savings and said all journalists should do the same. I am not sure if he is just showing off about how much he earns – more than £60,000 from the Guardian – but he cannot be serious.

Journalists should feel no more compunction to reveal their earnings and savings than anyone else. And it would be a mountain of work for the many of us who are freelance and such scrambled data would prove meaningless. I’ll have a go at explaining why. Continue reading