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Ethics training to become compulsory for journalists

Student journalists are to undergo mandatory ethics training as part of a series of changes announced in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry.

The move was announced this afternoon on the opening day of the annual Journalism Skills Conference organised by the National Council for the Training of Journalists.

Training leaders had already pledged that ethics would be brought “centre stage” in the wake of the phone hacking affair and the need for the industry to regain public trust.

The module, which will be introduced next year, will involve 20 hours of study and will be assessed by a one-hour exam.

The actual content of the module has not been decided but may include consideration of the questions ‘what is a journalist?’, ‘what is the truth?’, and ‘is it ever right to pay for information?’

Other topics will include the use of subterfuge, protection of sources, and the meaning of ‘off-the-record,’ ‘no names no pack drill,’ and ‘Chatham House Rules.’

Announcing the move, Guardian readers editor Chris Elliott said it would be “crazy for the NCTJ not to take cognisance of what has happened around Leveson.”

Backing for the idea came from Derby Telegraph editor Neil White, who has recently joined the NCTJ’s Training Board.

He told the conference:  “Every single day our guys go out and have to make decisions – when they are doing death knocks, when they are covering inquests – on just how far to push people.

“I certainly endorse the plans that are being put forward.  It will give journalists a real breadth of knowledge when they take up their jobs.”

However Pete Leydon, a journalism lecturer at staffordshire University, questioned the need for an exam.

He said: “I don’t agree with an exam on ethics.  It’s not practice based and I think we are in danger of over-examining students.”


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  • November 28, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Nevermind the phone hacking scandal – it’s a scandal the NCTJ isn’t telling wannabe journalists about the dire state of the industry and the lack of jobs.

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  • November 28, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Oh good! Another course in which our trainees will be given absolutely no instruction!

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  • November 29, 2012 at 9:14 am

    The worst journalists I’ve ever worked with have been the ones obsessed with the ‘ethics’ of doing the job – usually a get-out clause for why they shouldn’t be sent to doorstep a bereaved family on a freezing winter’s day in December.

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