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Training Matters: Let’s make the next year a better one

As the NCTJ’s annual report is published, NCTJ chairman Kim Fletcher reflects on adapting to a “new world” of journalism.

It’s not been the greatest year for the media, has it? We are some way through a complex criminal trial at the Old Bailey; there’s a big fight going on over the shape of press regulation, and we are still unclear how newspapers can make enough money from the internet to pay for journalists.

Those of us who’ve read McNae know better than to comment on a criminal case that may have another three months to run. Let us just say that a number of the practices revealed, whether eventually judged legal or illegal, do not reflect well on the industry. It would be helpful if this public trial could at least allow us to draw a line under events of the last decade, but it is too early even to be confident of that.

The future of regulation is as unclear as ever. We seem to be heading for a world with a regulator, set up by publishers to replace the Press Complaints Commission, and a recognition panel, set up by the politicians to check the regulator is doing its work properly. The problem is that one won’t speak to the other. The relationships are now so fraught that you can’t help feeling the politicians are waiting for the general election, so they can pass the whole problem to the next government.

And then there is the internet and the damage it has done to the commercial model of newspapers. There’s no point in moaning, for it is the future. But what are journalists to do: go free and hope for advertising money? Charge and hope for a paying audience? Try some mix of the two and see what happens?

It would be easy to fall into a depression. At the NCTJ, we refuse to. We don’t welcome the difficult environment, but nor shall we allow it to overwhelm us. Our task, which we are going about with real energy, is equipping this and the next generation of journalists with the skills and the competencies they need if they are to succeed in the new world of journalism. The old has been rocked by scandal, lost the trust of many of the public, and looked in vain to old working practices.

We’ve had lively discussions about the role of ethics in journalism training. We’ve finished the argument and we have ethics training in place. We spotted some years ago that the new world would demand more than an ability to file a newspaper story, so online skills are a vital part of our exams. We are not sure where the money is coming from, but journalists with the right skills will be best-placed to find out. So we believe the journalists who come through our courses are ready to play a leading role in the future of a vital trade. No, this year’s not been great, but we want to be part of making it better.

The annual report can be viewed here: