A training boss has accused former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie of being stuck in a ‘time warp’ after he called for all journalism colleges to be shut down.
Writing in today’s Independent, Kelvin said budding journalists did not need to go to university and there was nothing they could learn in three years studying for a degree that could not be taught in one month working for a local paper.
The columnist said supply was exceeding demand, with an ‘explosion’ of students on media degrees – while the number of jobs in the industry has shrunk by 30-40pc since 2001.
But his comments brought a swift riposte from National Council for the Training of Journalists chief executive Joanne Butcher who said newspapers rarely take on untrained journalists these days.
She said: “Kelvin MacKenzie, of course, exaggerates to make some valid points about media degree courses and the value of learning the journalist’s craft by cutting your teeth on a local paper.
“But he does seem stuck in a time warp. Unlike when Kelvin trained on the South East London Mercury and was sent away to college, newspapers simply don’t take on many raw recruits these days.
“Many would like to but can’t justify the time or the money to train them in the basic skills they need to the industry’s exacting standards.
“NCTJ-accredited journalism courses are supplying the industry with talented trainees with these basic skills and more.
“Yes, nothing compares with doing the job, and too many non-accredited courses recruit people who are unsuited to journalism and don’t have the innate news sense he refers to.”
In his article, Kelvin, who achieved just one O-level, said the best way to learn how to be a journalist was in receiving on-the-job training at a newspaper.
He writes: “There are more than 80 schools in the UK teaching journalism. These courses are make-work projects for retired journalists who teach for six months a year and are on a salary of £34,000- £60,000.
“Students are piling up debts as they pay to keep their tutors in the lifestyles they’re used to. I’d shut down all the journalism colleges today.
“If you want to be a print journalist you should go straight from school and join the local press. You will have a better career and you won’t owe a fortune. Good luck.”
Kelvin previously caused controversy last October when he criticised the journalism school at Bournemouth University – which was then defended by previous students.