Ignoring icebergs: The NCTJ and sinking ships.

It might be an iceberg but it's a minor in a court case so we ignore it.
It might be an iceberg but it's a minor in a court case so we ignore it.(picture from Ludovic Hirlimann on Flickr )

I’ve spent the day in the pleasent company of Journalists at the Middlesborough Gazette (some where from Newscastle) and I’m wondering what happened whilst I was training.

Did Hold the Front Page turn in the wayback machine.

Checking my email some of my work colleagues had been kicking around the HTFP story about an increase in applications to journalism degrees, despite the problems in the industry.

The story was one of my interesting links yesterday and I commented

I’m surprised by this or maybe students have got their head around what the industry can’t (and one or two of the comments on this piece make reinforce that idea) that newspapers/TV/Radio and journalism are not the same thing

The idea being that journalism was an intresting and valid thing to study. And, given the right course, would give you skills to do journalism rather than work for a newspaper or TV station.

So imagine my surprise when I read the following quote on another HTFP story today

Eastern Daily Press editor Paul Durrant told students that he “wasn’t bothered” about them having a degree.

Speaking at the second annual student council meeting, he added: “I’m bothered about NCTJ qualifications – I’m bothered about vocational training. I’m looking for maturity, passion and confidence.

“In terms of currency in the industry, I need to know someone’s got 100wpm shorthand, that they know what a Section 39 is.”

This was said at a meeting organised by the NCTJ where students could ‘meet the council’

I am genuinely amazed at the singular blindness a statement like this suggests to the broader problems in the industry.

Durrant may be bothered by these things. That’s his right as an editor. You could also argue they are important – I’m genuinely agnostic about this kind of thing now. But what else can he offer to anyone who takes him at his word?

As a senior journalist in the newspaper industry what security can he offer in return to a future journalist who is ‘bothered’ about staying in the industry?

Sometimes I wonder if the NCTJ has been running a secret training course – Pre-Entry newspaper editor, becoming captain of the titanic in 20 weeks.

Update: Over at Journalism.co.uk Dave Lee is asking for opinion on this whole debate as part of their Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalist section.

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6 Replies to “Ignoring icebergs: The NCTJ and sinking ships.”

  1. Somehow, this is exactly what I expect local/regional newspaper editors to say, and thus it is not surprising. On the other hand, it is truly shocking. I have just been sent the joint accrediting body proposals to comment on, and this gives it an interesting frame, as academics have been known to say.

  2. Andy,

    I think that it sums up the attitudes of the local press and the NTCJto be honest.Having sat in a few meetings with the NTCJ and the University,their old fashioned and closed shop attitude to journalism was remarkable.
    The sooner the industry and educational establishments ditch them the better for the industry.

    oops there goes my chance of working in what is left of the local dead tree press

  3. Tim

    I know. I don’t know why I’m surprised. It strikes me that this is the NCTJ presenting people who reflect that organisation to students to take questions. What does that say about the organisation?

    Yes you have defected from deadtree to glossy. I agree it does smack of closed shop. I just bang my head at the ‘one step forward and a century back’ attitude that the industry is saddled with. No wonder it struggles.

  4. My degree gave me a knowledge about ownership, ‘new media’, work experience, how papers relate to the wider world, what they mean to their readers and how they operate.

    Shorthand training gave me wrist ache.

    When I arrived on a large regional (Newsquest) weekly in 2004, I suggested we improved the web content and was completely patronised by the editor and then given the old ‘but then no one will read the paper’ routine. when I left in 2006 they were sending photographers to video training.

    Despite being by far the most web savvy member of the editorial team – I wasnt allowed the training, because I hadn’t passed my shorthand!

    Now I’m a content producer on the web and I dont rue the extinction of the dinosaurs – but rather the squandering of so much talent and entusiasm of the last 5 years, which so many local journalists possess.

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