Local newspapers are the best training ground for young reporters entering the industry, a forum of journalism students was told.
At the annual Student Council held by the National Council for the Training of Journalists, London Evening Standard digital journalist Rachel Blundy said she would recommend starting as a trainee on a regional paper.
Rachel, a University of Sheffield graduate, began her career on the Streatham Guardian and said her year there was the best training ground, because she covered all kinds of stories as the only reporter there.
The Student Council was held in London on Friday and brought together 43 student representatives from NCTJ-accredited courses across the UK, who were spoken to by a panel of NCTJ alumni.
Said Rachel: “I was the only reporter on the paper so I had everything from a big murder trial to silly Twitter spats.”
Andy Dickens, a senior reporter at C21 Media who trained at the Cambridge News, agreed that regional titles were “a really solid training ground” for young journalists who have to “hit the ground running” if they want to succeed.
At the council, the journalism students also quizzed a panel of editors about how they view the future of journalism and what they look for when recruiting staff.
The panel was chaired by Chris Elliott, readers’ editor at The Guardian and chairman of the NCTJ accreditation board, and included Laura Adams, editorial director at Archant London, Mary Hockaday, head of multimedia newsroom at the BBC; and Doug Wills, managing editor at the London Evening Standard, i, The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
All the panellists stressed the need for students to demonstrate their credentials by building up work experience and Laura advised students to take the initiative and not wait for a position to be created.
They also agreed there would always be a need for good journalism even if the platform changed.
Doug said: “The way you tell stories in five years’ time may change. The story will be the same but the way it’s told will be different.”
Before the editors’ panel, the NCTJ management team took questions from students on all aspects of accredited courses, including shorthand resources, the scope of law and public affairs study materials for students in Northern Ireland and communication between the NCTJ and the Student Council.