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Training Matters: How the ‘five Ws’ became six

A Bournemouth University programme leader and a BU first-year student discuss students’ real-time reporting and interviewing of top journalists

Liisa Rohumaa is the programme leader for the BA (Hons) multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University media school. You can follow her @snarkmouth

Journalists of a certain age, some of whom attended the recent NCTJ Journalism Skills Conference at Bournemouth University in November, probably remember their first story, and are grateful that their first pathetic effort is stashed away somewhere in a yellowing print archive.

For the current crop of journalism students there is no place to hide in an industry that expects them to be thoroughly versed in the importance of the five Ws, as well as the sixth – the web. Their digital footprint will be there forever. It’s searchable, transparent, open to crowd checking and feedback. The challenges of how to execute the what, who, where, when and why in print and online were the subject of discussion at the conference covered by Bournemouth Media School students, and you can catch up on debates on core skills and the real-time challenges of digital reporting by searching on Twitter for #NCTJConf2013.

The young digital journalists on the BA multimedia journalism degree mobilized a team with clearly defined roles for each to report the Journalism Skills Conference via video, audio, live blogs and social media. Key speakers such as John Ryley of Sky News, Peter Bale of CNN and Sandra Laville of The Guardian were identified for interviews. It was good to see an 18-year-old just into her first three months at university go up to John and ask him what he thought about the Royal Charter. She gives her take on the experience later in this blog. And before you ask, the lecturers didn’t tell them what questions to ask; that was up to them. However, we did note that if they made a spelling mistake, there would be plenty of people there to point it out.

Oliver Joy from CNN tweeted: “A student is live blogging next to me. Fantastic to see these guys learning cutting-edge news skills.” The live blog was streamed for all to see in real-time what people were saying about using the web to interrogate data, build contacts in the community and track website traffic and trends. “Interviewed by terrifyingly young and good ‪#journalism‬‬ students at Bournemouth” tweeted Peter Bale, before telling delegates he would not hire anyone unless they were engaged with social media.

The students asked questions, told the story and used the technology. These are the core skills we are teaching. What better time to experiment and learn than by reporting the NCTJ Journalism Skills Conference and showing off your skills to your readers, lecturers and future employers. These digital natives are the future of journalism and are being trained to be professional journalists. I, for one, trust them to talk to people, and to get the story right. They are not going to learn this by sitting in a seminar. How they get that story out there is up to them. In the years to come, perhaps they will be teaching the rest of us a few lessons.

Jessica Foster, 18, is an undergraduate journalism student at Bournemouth University

I’m only three months into my journalism studies, so the chance to be part of a team and meet so many senior journalists at the NCTJ Journalism Skills Conference at Bournemouth University was incredible. But I also had to remember I was there to report on it.

Our team looked at how we would cover the event while showcasing the skills we have to master if we are to graduate and get our NCTJ Diploma. We had to deliver coverage that was accurate and for the most part, in real-time for delegates and an online audience who might be interested in topics under debate. Our lecturers gave us the hairy eyeball on spelling, punctuation and grammar and getting stories and interviews. But after that we were on our own.

We provided live coverage on Twitter and the Breaker website, which is produced by students at Bournemouth University. All the panel discussions were filmed, edited and put online by third-year students. Using Vine, Vizibee and Tout, the rest of the team took short clips of the conference, captured the key comments of the panel speakers and shared the videos on our live twitter feed. We’re trained to use the technology and things can go wrong, but it’s the story and how best to tell it that is the difficult bit.

I want to be a radio journalist, so I was up for interviewing top journalists throughout the day, editing the audio, and uploading the interviews and podcasts of the panel sessions onto the Breaker via AudioBoo.

I learned from the experience that journalists have to be prepared to adapt when things don’t go to plan. For example, I had intended to interview John Ryley of Sky News about his opinion on press regulation. He wasn’t up for giving his opinion on the Royal Charter, so I then had the additional pressure of finding someone else for quotes.

Overall, the conference provided me with an insight into researching, preparing and reporting an event. It was valuable to hear what top journalists and employers look for in young, ambitious journalists. I was so busy I didn’t take all of it in, so I’m just going to have to find out what the team covered at #NCTJConf2013.