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Journalism students told to forget about degrees

Maturity and confidence combined with some vocational experience and training should see tomorrow’s journalists land their first job.

Eastern Daily Press senior content 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.”

The advice comes in stark contrast to yesterday’s news from university admissions service Ucas that applications to journalism degrees were up by 24pc.

Run by the National Council for the Training of Journalists, the council brings journalism students from across the UK face-to-face with editors and other industry bigwigs.

Students quizzed editors on the realities of the workplace, to help them prepare for the end of their courses and received tips about what editors are looking for when recruiting.

Brien Beharrell, editorial director of the Newbury Weekly News, advised trainees applying for jobs outside their area to visit the new patch and get a feel for what makes the community tick.

The meeting, at Bloomberg in London, also featured a Q&A session with NCTJ staff, in which students addressed a variety of issues which will be taken forward by the body.

Students were also updated on actions the NCTJ has taken since the inaugural student council meeting last year, which include the publication of results tables, a new public affairs text book and exams specific to Scotland.

The council also received a tour of Bloomberg’s high-tech office and heard about the news service’s paid internship scheme.

Comments

Journo (18/02/2009 12:24:47)
Good old NCTJ – I imagine the cash cow isn’t suffering in the credit crunch. And bosses love using the NCTJ mechanism to keep wages. Everybody’s a winner!

James (18/02/2009 15:23:45)
So I’m wasting £3,000+ a year for nothing then? Cheers, Paul.

john (18/02/2009 16:25:13)
This is hilarious. I met Paul Durrant at an interview – that man has the world’s finest moustache!

Jaay (18/02/2009 16:43:05)
The answer is to do a degree that has an NCTJ exam attached. Then you get the best of both worlds and get to have some fun before working for a pittance as a trainee.

Chris Harrison (18/02/2009 17:16:32)
I think the best thing you can do is get yourself some work experience for a couple of weeks after leaving school to demonstrate your enthusiasm and then enrol yourself on an NCTJ 20 week course.
I do not know a single editor or reporter who would be impressed by a candidate with a journalism degree without the NCTJ prelim certificate.
Cut out the middle man and just do the shorter (cheaper) course.
Before doing so however ask yourself – Do I want to work 12 hour day/nights and weekends for £12-14,000 per year.
The pay on local papers (if you can get a job) is absolutely miserly because of the number of people who want to work in the industry.
Be realistic before committing yourself and your money to these courses because in the current climate your employment prospects are bleak.
I don’t want to sound like a doom and gloom merchant but it is important to be aware of the reality of the industry as it stands at the moment.

HJ (19/02/2009 09:22:48)
Thanks for the advice Paul, but I’d like to think journalists have a certain level of education behind them before their views and opinions are unleashed on the world. And don’t forget, a degree will be a necessity when you leave journalism for a reasonably well paid job with working hours which fall within the European working time directive…

Nick (19/02/2009 10:10:04)
He’s probably right, but I would still say that an NCTJ-affiliated degree is best as you get the university experience too. Just make sure you do all the exams – my uni did not push the NCTJ at all once we started the course and it wasn’t until the second half of the third year that we got a chance to do all the exams – along with coursework, dissertations, final exam prep…

Chris Rushton (19/02/2009 10:20:10)
It’s amazing the number of old fashioned dinosaur editors like Paul D who come up with nonsense like this, but then – when they inevitably lose their jobs – apply for work at universities and are told they are not qualified!

Dave (19/02/2009 10:48:12)
From my experience no editor is remotely interested in a journalism degree.
Get yourself plenty of work experience, do the NCTJ exams and save yourself a packet!

AmeliaRanne (19/02/2009 12:21:03)
I have worked with students and graduates who think a degree will get them a cracking job in journalism. Unfortunately, many of them can’t spell, have a poor vocabulary, and their punctuation is non-existent. At least an NCTJ course would sort them out earlier. Save me from meeja students please!

chris slackster (19/02/2009 22:04:17)
That’s what subs are for, aint it?

Jules (21/02/2009 16:19:30)
I applied for a job as a reporter many years ago with an English degree and was told by an editor it was worthless and to do the NCTJ course. I did the post-grad fast-track one and was offered a job straight afterwards. I would advise anyone thinking of going into journalism to cut out the three-year degree course and go straight for the NCTJ one. I wish I had done that in the first place. It would have been cheaper, less time-consuming and more relevant.

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