NCTJ gears syllabus to the 21st century newsroom

The National Council for the Training of Journalists has launched a revised syllabus to give students the skills needed to succeed in a "21st century newsroom".

The changes include a new optional course in online journalism and altered rules for accrediting training centres, designed to "accredit courses where there is an integrated approach to teaching… that reflects developments in media convergence".

Courses will continue to focus on the traditional elements of media law, shorthand, public affairs and news writing, and chief executive Joanne Butcher told Press Gazette that the skills journalists need to succeed have not changed, even if the tools have.

"What we are saying is these are the skills you need to succeed whatever discipline [of journalism] you are in. And students want them because it makes them highly marketable. We would strongly recommend that [colleges] offer new media training."

But Butcher admitted it may be some time before all NCTJ centres are teaching new media. "When you have 40 centres and 60 courses you cannot just do it in a week," she said.

The way students take exams is also changing. Instead of the traditional news writing and hand-out papers, which have been in place since the 1970s, candidates will now sit just one news writing exam and submit a portfolio of their work published during their course, which is designed to be used to showcase work to employers.

Butcher said that changes, such as removing the fictional town Oxdown from exams, were necessary to keep the exams relevant.

"Part of the newspaper exams have been the same for 20 years. It's not that there was anything wrong with it – it just had to change."

The NCTJ launched a sub-editing course last month at new independent college The Journalist Works in Brighton.

The council's first accredited online journalism course was announced last month and will be available at Up to Speed Training College in Poole, Dorset, from September.

More than 1,300 students took NTCJ-accredited courses in 2006.

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