NCTJ -academic snobbery

The Society of Editors conference has thrown up some interesting stuff. I was drawn to some comments made by the NCTJ’s Joanne Butcher in a session called The New Journalist  

“Some people love to think the NCTJ is clinging on to the old-fashioned, out-dated and out-moded skills that they like to think shorthand, government, court reporting and so on are. Sometimes because they can’t be bothered to teach them or out of some sort of misplaced academic snobbery.”

Butcher, who has been chief executive since 2003, embraced the changing face of journalism, citing the changes the NCTJ themselves have made to move with the times. “The new journalist will need to learn a variety of new skills and talents to be able to satisfy their career needs and ours. Production, multi-media design packages, content management knowledge, video and audio creation and editing are the new skills we demand.”

I think the first statement is a bit of an assumption. The current flack the NCTJ are getting makes some sense of why she would make such a sweeping statement but it’s not a great forum to chuck the toys out of the pram. Worse still, it’s a view that makes her second statement all the more questionable.

It may be the case that some feel the NCTJ syllabus doesn’t fit within academic programmes. For me it’s never been relevant. I don’t question its value. It’s just never covered my area. But if Joanne is going to throw stones, then let’s at least see some of that balance we drum in to students.

For the seven years I have been teaching Online and Multimedia journalism I haven’t seen any change in the NCTJ syllabus that includes “Production, multi-media design packages, content management knowledge, video and audio creation and editing”. Believe me I’ve looked.

Oh, how I longed for Oxdown to reflect new media. Even get an internet connection. But no, not even a squeak of recognition for anything other than PA, shorthand and Law . Not even in the three years that Butcher has been at the helm.

Perhaps up until this point the NCTJ felt they didn’t have to be bothered with that stuff.

The cynics may interpret Butchers ‘them and us approach’ (education and industry) as biting the hand that has helped feed the NCTJ for a long time. In trying to position the NCTJ within the industry – “the skills we demand” – so she can berate academia is pretty cheap. Which is a shame.

If any organisation is in a position to benefit and partner both education and industry in helping steer a new course in skilling-up the industry it’s the NCTJ.  Perhaps, like industry, the NCTJ would be better responding to the changes in the media landscape rather than staking their claims to the sole rights to do so. 

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