29 July 2014

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Editors call for cut in number of journalism courses

A survey into journalism training has found that editors believe there are too many courses for the number of jobs available.

The Society of Editors survey on journalism training was published at its annual conference in Belfast this morning.

Among the findings were that there is “widespread antipathy” among editors to media studies courses and that editors feel there are too many courses overall.

The survey also found that journalism trainees believe there is not enough information available on journalism courses to help them choose the right one.

Simon Bucks, chairman of the SoE training committee said:  “It’s not really surprising that editors think there are too many courses.

“There seems to be some opportunity for training providers to thin them down.”

Other key findings of the survey included:

• Half of the editors who responded thought journalism training was no better than “fine” and 5% thought it was not good. Many editors said there are too many courses for the jobs available.

• Many editors said 100 wpm shorthand should be compulsory.  They rated news sense, interviewing, media law and news writing as the other key skills.
 
• The vast majority think it is important that training courses are accredited, but more than half said there are too many accreditation bodies, and a quarter would prefer them to be merged into one body.

• More than three-quarters thought an undergraduate degree was not essential to be a journalist.  Nearly a quarter of editors said aspiring journalists should actively avoid media studies courses.

More than a third of editors (37pc) thought the standard of entry level journalists has gone down in the last 10 years, but a quarter thought the standard has risen.

They rated politics, history and English language as the most useful subjects for aspiring journalists to study.

Among trainees, 92pc thought their course had been either very or quite useful and effective in helping them get a job.

However, only half said the currently have jobs. Of the others, 29pc were still applying, 21pc were freelancing and 13pc were doing unpaid work in journalism.

Half the trainees said they had received either no or inadequate, preparation for job interviews.  Only a quarter felt confident when they went for a job interview.

And more than half said they had no, or inadequate information for helping them choose their course.

Responding to the survey, NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher said journalism ethics would be brought “centre stage”  in the curriculum in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry.

“Following recent research and much soul searching, we have concluded that far greater emphasis must be placed on ethics in the industry’s journalism training and qualifications,” she said.

“There is agreement across the industry that journalistic ethics matter a lot so that readers and audiences trust the information they are being given by the media.

“There are commercial as well as moral reasons for taking ethics very seriously. But the current teaching of journalistic ethics has been too patchy, random and implicit.”

“There’s a great deal of teaching and assessment of regulation, which will continue in whatever form future regulation takes, but that is not always the same as ethics.

“And so we are bringing the subject of practical journalistic ethics centre stage in terms of the content taught and examined in the industry’s gold standard training.”

Joanne also called for better pre-university careers advice for those seeking to enter the profession.

“It is a disgrace to see so many young people completing expensive courses and passing bogus qualifications that just don’t provide them with the vocational skills they need to get jobs or qualifications that editors have any faith in. We owe it to them to expose this scandal,” she said.

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  • 5 Comments

    1. Alistair Forbes, Essex

      An excellent way forward, well done NCTJ for continuing the proactive approach to help students achieve the standards necessary to secure a future in the industry. Well done Joanne.

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    2. Chris Youett, Coventry

      Universities have been producing three or four times the numbers of graduates that employers have jobs for since the late 1950s. Regarding the quality of education given on these courses, this is something that the NUJ and NCTJ has been watching for over half a Century. So well done to Joanne – and the council needs to take a much-tougher stance on quality standards in the higher education sector. This will mean withdrawing council endorsement of a lot of courses.

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    3. Brian, North East

      The elephant in the room finally speaks – loudly. This article will provoke a lot of staring at shoes and shuffling uncomfortably. Well said Joanne.
      PS that’s a metaphoric elephant!!!

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    4. Mike Cooper, london

      It has taken the editors a very long time to wake up to the fact that there is a vast over-supply of would-be journalists. This was obvious to me, a mere former sub, five years ago. That was when the wholesale cull of jobs began.

      While it doubtless pleases the accountants to be able to employ the lucky few on pittance pay, it is doing the innocents who thought that they would be properly rewarded for their years of study no good at all. In fact, it is cruel to lure them on to a course when many stand no chance of a job at the end of it.

      With even the BBC cutting back, what hope do these bright young graduates have? A McBurger job awaits them…

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    5. Percy Hoskins, London

      If the NCTJ was being serious about ethical journalism perhaps they should cut the number of courses which are wasting too many people’s time and money.

      And consider the following:

      1. Half of the editors who responded thought journalism training was no better than “fine” and 5% thought it was not good. Many editors said 100 wpm shorthand should be compulsory. They rated news sense, interviewing, media law and news writing as the other key skills.

      2. Half the trainees said they had received either no or inadequate, preparation for job interviews. Only a quarter felt confident when they went for a job interview.

      3. Responding to the survey, NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher said journalism ethics would be brought “centre stage” in the curriculum in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry: “Following recent research and much soul searching, we have concluded that far greater emphasis must be placed on ethics in the industry’s journalism training and qualifications.”

      Now I’ve not seen the full report but precisely how many editors – yunno the people who actually occasionally have jobs to offer – said that what they really wanted was more ethics on the curriculum?

      People are coming out with 1st class degrees in journalism who can’t write intros, don’t have shorthand and have no idea how to do a door knock.

      Perhaps that is what should come centre stage and stop trying – and failing – to turn this trade into a low rent profession.

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