If you think you don't need training, it's time to think again

Training? Who needs it? You do, actually. Yes – you! Many journalists finished their training when they left college. So their law is dangerously out of date, their shorthand is slow and unreliable and they have never reached their full potential.

The truth is, most of us cynical old hacks think we don’t need training.

But would you like your car to be fixed by a mechanic who hadn’t learnt anything new since the days of the Ford Anglia? Speaking of Fords, Henry Ford once said: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80.” .

I remember attending a training session where the trainer was demonstrating a cuttingedge desktop publishing system to a group of journalists. ‘Yes, but does it make the tea?’ was the most constructive question we could muster between us. That attitude still prevails in many sections of the media.

Let’s put it another way. I tried to get an appointment with my doctor the other day.

“Sorry,” the receptionist told me. “There’s noone in. They do training every Wednesday.”

Training – for an afternoon every week! Fancy it? Probably not. But as people who are trusted to impart news and views to millions, I believe we need ongoing training just as much as doctors do. Especially when things like law, people’s reading habits, technology and local government are changing almost every week.

The Hutton Inquiry and the Clive Goodman court case created crises in journalism. And it is interesting that the response of both the BBC and the News of the World was to improve staff training. Shutting the stable door, perhaps?

The blame does not just rest with the journalists.

Management has a responsibility to recognise the need for staff training.

Some do, but many don’t. When things are tight, the training budget is often the first thing to get cut. It should be the last.

Most papers and magazines have had staff cuts and reorganisation in the past two years. But how many of the remaining journalists have been given training to help them cope with different, and heavier, workloads?

After a restructuring, most journalists would benefit from training in multi-tasking; change management; speed reading; time management; team work, and small-group training in new areas of responsibility.

Then there’s one-to-one coaching. Have you ever had some? It’s easy to shout at an underperforming reporter – but more constructive to coach them so they improve.

I was once asked to give some one-to-one coaching to a magazine reporter who was really struggling with her interviewing skills. After six hours training, you would not have believed she was the same person.

Managements don’t often realise that training usually saves money – in recruitment, efficiency, legal fees, libel damages, contempt fines, employment tribunals, you name it. And it’s not just the usual suspects. There are courses in interviewing, multimedia, leadership skills, time management, ethics, and many more.

Things are changing, though – especially since Joanne Butcher started her revolution at the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ). Dinosaurs, they aren’t – not any more. Even Oxdown’s gone.

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