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Regional press leaders to debate core skills gap

A series of regional press big hitters are set to debate the future of journalism training this Friday in the wake of a critical report on whether it is meeting the industry’s needs.

The National Council for the Training of Journalists is staging the first Journalism Skills Conference at Salford Quays, Greater Manchester.

Delegates and industry leaders will debate the findings of the NCTJ-sponsored report published at last month’s Society of Editors Conference which found that trainees entering the profession are lacking key skills such as news gathering and writing.

More than 70pc of employers who took part in the research said there was a lack of so-called “core skills” as more training courses opt for multimedia training as part of the curriculum.

Among those taking part in Friday’s conference are Donald Martin, the newly-promoted editor-in-chief of Newsquest’s Glasgow titles, Manchester Evening News editor Paul Horrocks, and Simon Reynolds, editorial director of the Lancashire Evening Post.

Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell will be chairing the discussion on the results of the journalism skills survey.

The main focus of the conference will be on the need for journalism training to reflect the needs of “converged” newsrooms and “multi-platform” journalism without losing the so-called “core skills” highlighted in the survey.

The NCTJ said the event aims to “take a strategic view of the issues associated with educating and training journalists.”

Chief executive Joanne Butcher said: “This is a unique opportunity to get editors and journalism educators together to talk about the challenges and opportunities of preparing future generations of journalists for a multi-media converged industry.

“The impressive line-up of speakers have strong views about the importance of training in both traditional and new skills, and I am sure there will be an interesting debate about the various paths the future of journalism training could take.

“This will be backed up by the publication of a major piece of research, which achieved a response from more than 250 editors and trainers.

“It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the work of those in the industry, with the presentation of the NCTJ Chairman’s Award, conferred on a trainer for his or her outstanding contribution to journalism training.

Others taking part in the confrerence include Andy Griffee, editorial director of the BBC’s W1 multimedia journalism centre, Cerys Griffiths, editor of BBC North West News, and Paul Watson, who project-managed the NCTJ survey.

Representatives of the NCTJ, the Broadcasting Journalism Training Council and the Periodicals Training Council recently agreed to establish a joint council to identify training requirements designed to satisfy employers across all three sectors.


Alan Salter (03/12/2008 10:12:47)
Well of course there’s a lack of core skills…and as long as editors demand that their reporters work through lunch hours at their desks and get their information from the web instead of talking to people, it will get worse and worse.
At the M.E.N. before I left, there was a growing edifice of web site, Channel M, supplements, blogs, etc – all dependent on a small and shrinking team of new reporters whop remembered how to gather the news.

John (03/12/2008 10:35:53)
Added to that is the fact a lot of courses just aren’t good enough anymore.

jonb (03/12/2008 11:37:36)
Surely it’s up to editors to employ people with natural ability?
The bright, brave, questioning candidates, the people who really want to be REPORTERS, normally stand out a mile.
If papers have invested time and trouble in their work experience programmes, they will have identified some of these naturally talented people even before they have been away to uni.
If you find a good ‘un then you get your hooks into him/her and if they’ve got any sense they get their hooks into your paper, too.
If they eventually come back to you with all the gizmo skills, then that’s even better.
Surely it’s the editor’s job to tell a born story-getter from an also ran? If we are employing people without the core skills, then it is our fault. There’s enough choice, after all. Don’t blame the courses or the system.

Demon Barber (03/12/2008 13:14:00)
Anyone care to rearrange the Titanic’s deckchairs? Bit of fiddling while Rome burns? Who the hell cares at the moment about training? The insouciance of the NCTJ to the virtual collapse of the regional/local newspaper industry is shaming. Get down from the ivory tower you lot and have a good look around. That smell isn’t roses, it’s journalists’ livelihoods going up in smoke.

Observer (03/12/2008 15:48:34)
Train them up by all means. But then get them into a newsroom, let them see for themselves how much work they have to do, how little time they will have to go and find news and build contacts, how much cutting and pasting of press releases they will do, and then watch them leave in droves before they waste their lives worrying about when the next round of redundancies will come along and before they have a family to think about. That’s as much of a problem as finding people with a nose for a news story. Until that’s solved, then having great news people won’t matter. Simple as that.

jonb (03/12/2008 17:33:52)
Observer, I take your point. These are crazy, difficult times and there are worries for all of us. But I’ve just spoken to a young trainee reporter we recruited three months ago – she doesn’t cut and paste press releases (we bin most of them), she gets out to hunt down stories, and she says she’s working damn hard and loving every minute of it.

regionalhack (03/12/2008 17:38:54)
Hey editors, how about these discussion topics?
1)That journalists now have to do twice as much work (otherwise known as the multi-skilled, multimedia future) with less time due to less staff than ever before?
2)That the brightest young people now fully realise that they will be paid more, be treated better, and work less hours, in almost any other job?
But I expect the outcome of this conference will be the usual rose-tinted, management BS

Hackmeister General (03/12/2008 17:51:28)
jonb – you are bang on. I became news editor at a weekly newspaper earlier this year after working as a reporter at weekly and daily newspapers. I have quickly become frustrated and bemused at the attitude of some of the trainee reporters I oversee. I am finding myself having to spoonfeed not just one, but three or four reporters. Most of them never seem to leave their desks apart from the obligatory evening meetings, come up with any original ideas or go out and sniff out stories. I just find their attitudes astonishing – most of them are happy to simply re-write (badly) press releases! Not only that, but the general lack of basic grammar and punctutation skills is frankly astonishing. At the risk of sounding like a (premature) old whatsit, I blame the growth of email and text messaging for that. But whatever – the standards are quite shockingly bad. In fairness, I don’t think they have been helped by the training regime here (they can’t have been, or else they would be better). Ultimately, I think it comes down to drive and that’s what I find most of the trainee reporters I have encountered lack. It’s sad as it makes me feel like I’m wasting my time on people who want to spend Thursday and Friday afternoons checking out who’s ‘poked’ them on bloody Facebook, rather than getting a good human interest story! I’m not tarring all trainees the same but most I am meeting these days seem to have entered journalism because it seemed a ‘good laugh’, rather than actually wanting it.

The Idler (03/12/2008 17:55:13)
Trainees entering the profession?
Shurely shome mishtake?
Aren’t most people leaving (or being being forced to leave) our profession, or is the way forward young, untrained and cheap.

< p>All Subbed Out (04/12/2008 10:31:35)
As an editor, Jonb, I have always aimed to employ bright, inquiring people who demonstrate natural ability and talent, rather than simply looking at paper qualifications. But my hands are completely tied when it comes to the ever-increasing pressure and ever-tighter financial regime we then have to work together under. Even the most naturally talented journalist is sorely pressed to do a decent job when management and shareholders expect a quart’s worth of news to be magically conjured out of a pint pot of resources and then rewritten, reformatted and spread across ever-burgeoning ‘platforms’.

John Hugill (04/12/2008 11:34:37)
I am now a senior (and surprise surprise I’m out of work at present) and my traineeship was great. Got out on patch a lot, made good contacts and found plenty of stuff most weeks.
However, the way the redundancies have been going you have to wonder whether trainees now will have the same time and patience from editors. I did the Newcastle PA training course and it’s first class.

Alan watcher (04/12/2008 18:20:08)
Give over Alan, when did you ever skip a lunch break?