We must wait and see if NCTJ is still industry standard
September 13, 2010 7 Comments
Roy Greenslade has flagged up an interesting point in his latest Guardian blog. In short, he questions whether university journalism courses need to be accredited by the National Council for the Teaching of Journalism (NCTJ) and, citing the example of the University of Strathclyde (who withdrew from the NCTJ in 2008), asks whether the course actually provides the skills for the ‘journalists of the future’.
This is particularly pertinent to the Wannabe Hacks as myself, The Chancer and The Detective will be starting journalism masters at City University next week.
City (as Mr Greenslade points out in his article) is not NCTJ certified.
In the year or so before applying to study journalism at City, I had to weigh up whether it was better to study a postgraduate course at a non-NCTJ accredited institution (like City, Goldsmiths or Westminster) or to do a short course NCTJ qualification and supplement that with work experience. In effect, I was torn between what I was told was the national standard for journalists – the Michelin Star for journalism courses – and what I thought would equip me with the skills to be a top-class reporter.
One question that I had, and that many young journalists may have too, is whether or not having an NCTJ qualification would affect job opportunities in the future. My answer would be probably not.
National newspaper generally don’t deem any journalism qualifications essential and, although some local newspapers editors swear by the NCTJ and will not employ anyone unless they have passed it (the editor of the North West London Newsquest titles told me as much), it’s not a hard and fast rule.
Whilst on work experience on The St Albans and Harpenden Review, I met a reporter who was employed with no formal qualifications and was one of the better reporters in the newsroom. Such instances are by no means typical but it goes to show that being NCTJ certified can be as much about journalists feeling they need to equip themselves with certain skills than it is about editors demanding an NCTJ as a prerequisite training in journalism
As for the bigger question about whether the NCTJ is fit to be a national standard anymore, we may have to wait and see. The new students who have just started their NCTJ courses are the first to take the qualification in it’s new format, said to be more relevant to the digital age. According to Richard Parsons, the Director of Training at the News Associates NCTJ, based in Wimbledon, the new batch of students will be trialing a new course structure which will make the NCTJ more applicable to 21st century newsgathering and story telling.
So, Mr Greenslade’s question of whether it’s worth being NCTJ qualified may only be truly answered when those students pass and attempt to get jobs. Only then will we be able to tell whether the NCTJ still holds the high reputation it used to.
- As university spurns NCTJ accreditation, do journalists need it nowadays? (guardian.co.uk)
- NCTJ award offers students chance to cover Championship play-offs (blogs.journalism.co.uk)