How to be a Journalist 2015: Press Gazette's guide to journalism training in association with the NCTJ

Kim Fletcher

Press Gazette has published its annual guide to journalism training, produced in association with the National Council for the Training of Journalists.

How to be a Journalist provides a comprehensive briefing on the NCTJ route to a career in journalism and much more besides. Read supplement introduction from NCTJ chairman Kim Fletcher (pictured) and the full digital edition of the guide below. If you would like to obtain print copies of the guide contact Lisa Nelson at the NCTJ:

Are you looking for a career that will make you big money, with a clear career path and job security? Then you are in the wrong place, writes Kim Fletcher.

There are good reasons to be a journalist, but not too many that will make your mother or father happy. Want to do something that will bring you the respect of your peers? Then keep out of journalism. Like the idea of regular hours? Think again.

If you are still reading, then you are not the person who is deflected by a few home truths. Maybe you don’t mind the possibility that you will become a penniless, social pariah, disowned by your relatives and shunned by sensible friends who are heading for finance, insurance and teaching.

Your reward must come elsewhere, from working in a gossipy, mischievous trade where no day need be like the one before it; being paid (a little) to witness what others would pay to see; rubbing shoulders sometimes with the stars and sometimes with the fallen and – yes, journalism is important – finding out what is going on, bringing to account the rich and powerful, protecting democracy. And did I mention how much fun it can be?

The generation before you joined a media industry that made lots of money; you are joining one that must work out all over again how to make journalism pay. The internet changed the way we live and – along the way – dealt a crippling blow to newspapers. The old economic model is broken, because people spoiled by free stuff online are reluctant to hand over money. The upside is that the digital world offers more and more opportunity to be published and – one way or another – will find some dosh.

In those circumstances, the bright thing to do is maximise your chances of employment. One way is to enrol on a training course accredited by the educational charity the National Council for the Training of Journalists, whether at MA, undergraduate, academic year, part-time or fast-track level. I guess I would say that, as chairman.

But there is evidence: in our recent survey, when students who had studied on our accredited courses were asked what they were doing now, some 82 per cent said they were in work, compared with 70 per cent of leavers from higher education courses across all subjects (let us gloss over, to my point earlier, that the median salary was £17,500, some £3,000 less than the level for all graduates from higher education).

Most of those in work who responded to the survey were in the creative media sectors – 30 per cent in newspapers, 11 per cent in magazines, seven per cent in television, four per cent in radio and nine per cent in an online or digital sector. Of those in journalism jobs, 77 per cent said the NCTJ diploma was a necessity or an advantage. Their view mirrored that of the editors to whom we talk (and who, along with lecturers sit on our board). Editors have a queue of people wanting to get into journalism and can afford to be picky – and tend to pick people with an NCTJ qualification.

Trainee journalists who attend the courses we accredit and take the examinations we offer have the practical skills to work in all areas of the industry. Our diploma entails mandatory units in news reporting, multimedia portfolio, ethics, media law and regulation, public affairs and shorthand for journalists, and at least two optional units, such as media law court reporting, video journalism for online, sports journalism or broadcast journalism. The prize qualification, the “gold standard” diploma, demands grades A – C in all modules and 100 words per minute in the shorthand examination. Our survey found that 96 per cent of those questioned who had that were working.

Journalists with our qualifications are on local and national newspapers; they report regional and international news for the BBC, ITV and Sky and commercial radio stations; they staff big news agencies, magazines, websites. In short, they find jobs in all outlets. You don’t have to have a qualification to work as a journalist, but when you are looking for that first job, people take you seriously when you have.

On the following pages you will find all kinds of NCTJ courses and qualifications: at colleges, universities and independent providers, through apprenticeships and distance learning. Here are courses for school leavers, for undergraduates and graduates and for those looking to make a career change. Have a look, employ a little journalistic scepticism, ask some tough questions and work out your options. Good luck.

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