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Long-serving journalism tutor bids farewell

An award-winning college tutor responsible for kick-starting the careers of hundreds of journalism students in the North-East has retired.

Jon Smith, who started out as a reporter with the Shields Gazette, has been teaching journalism at Darlington College for the past 21 years.

He moved into the classroom following spells with The Northern Echo in Darlington, as its features editor and chief sub-editor, and The Times.

The 64-year-old called time on his teaching career at the end of term before Christmas after guiding dozens of young students through the essential first steps of learning journalism.

He said: “The technology has changed beyond all recognition. In my early days, it was typewriters and hot metal, but the equipment now is absolutely cutting-edge. Intrinsically, though, things have not changed that much.

“We are still all about equipping journalists with the core skills they need – making them aware of media law, local and national government, and their shorthand writing. I do not think that will ever change.

“The students nowadays are fantastic because they have to cope with so much more.”

Jon is a also senior examiner with the National Council for the Training of Journalists, the author of a guide for trainees and responsible for editorial training to National Certificate Examination ‘senior’ level with The Northern Echo’s parent company Newsquest.

Jon’s dedication to the cause was recognised last month by the NCTJ which gave him the chairman’s award for outstanding contribution to journalism training.

Darlington College was also named the best place to study journalism on an NCTJ-accredited fast-track course while Newsquest gave Jon a trip on the Orient Express as a gift in recognition of his achievements.

NCTJ chairman Kim Fletcher said: “Jon Smith is a special person who has made an outstanding contribution to journalism education and training in so many ways: within the newspaper companies he has worked for; as a long term member of the journalism team at Darlington College; as a trainer of Newsquest’s trainees; and for the industry through his work for the NCTJ.

“Jon has decided the time is right to retire from teaching journalism at Darlington College but thankfully he will be continuing his work for the NCTJ.

“It is a fitting tribute to him that Darlington College is top of the NCTJ results table for further education fast-track courses this year.”

  • Jon (left) receives the Chairman’s Award from Kim Fletcher at the NCTJ’s Journalism Skills Conference in Glasgow last month
  • Comments

    Neil Hodge (12/01/2010 09:41:58)
    Well done, Jon. I was lucky enough to be one of your students at Darlington in 1997-1998. You taught me everything I know (except how to cut and paste!).

    hilary jones (12/01/2010 10:28:57)
    I remember you from university days – long, thin and driven, and always inspirational, even then. Have a good retirement…the industry is unrecognisable now

    Mark Casci (12/01/2010 10:40:42)
    The amount of quality journalists working worldwide that Jon must have taught is astonishing. Congratulations on your retirement and thanks for all the help you gave me on my NCE refresher course in 2005.

    Janis Blower (12/01/2010 12:59:55)
    Best wishes on your retirement Jon. You were a friend and mentor when I first started here at the Shields Gazette in the early 1970s (and got me signed-up to the NUJ)

    Fiona Phillips (12/01/2010 13:29:26)
    Farewell Jon, have a long and happy retirement. I will miss you.

    Mike Walton (13/01/2010 11:38:41)
    Best wishes Jon. It was a pleasure to help you on the Newsquest courses. You were an inspiration to many, many students.

    Rebecca Whittington (13/01/2010 12:33:59)
    Good luck Jon, I hope you enjoy retirement. You will be missed by journalism students up and down the country. You were fab when I did my course at Darlo, and now I’m on newsdesk I have your book on my desk next to McNae’s as essential reading (for me and my reporters!)

    Peter Sands (13/01/2010 15:13:34)
    Retiring … or off to write a play or convert a barn? Best of luck old timer and congratulations for hanging on to your hair. Peter

    Tony Metcalf (13/01/2010 15:22:46)
    I was head of journalism at Darlington College in 2003 and, nominally, Jon’s boss.
    Happily I had the good sense to let Jon and Robin Crowther, get on with it. They were superb and dug me out of countless holes, without fuss or bother.
    How on earth people with their knowledge, enthusiasm and teaching skill will be replaced, is beyond me.
    Good luck and happy retirement, Jon and if you’re ever in New York, I owe you a night on the hoy.
    Tony Metcalf

    David Wynne-Jones (14/01/2010 12:17:36)
    Good luck in your retirement Jon. you were one of the characters of the Darlo papers in the seventies when I was there. God to hear of all you’ve done to produce good journalists. Enjoy the future … I can vouch that retiremet’s great!