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Training Matters: New partnerships in journalism training

Paul Foster is working at the heart of a new one-year training course being run by Highbury College. He is also community editor at The News and editor of new monthly paper, Portsmouth View. Previously, Paul was deputy news editor at The News for seven years.

For many years, journalists have learned their craft in colleges and universities before getting their big break.

Now, The News, Portsmouth has become the first newspaper in the country to have a purpose-built classroom based in the office that is fully integrated into the paper’s newsroom.

We have joined forces with the city’s Highbury College to offer a unique way into the industry.

It’s a pioneering project. Alongside their studies, the nine students enrolled on the course are learning the ropes on a fast-paced daily newspaper, mixing with general reporters, feature writers, sports journalists and news editors.

So why did we do it?

Well, there are obvious benefits on both sides. The students get the chance to write on a regular basis – their cuttings files are already impressive, uncovering plenty of hard-hitting stories and features.

It also means every story they are writing is getting published and is not just for their portfolios.

While gaining substantial experience in a newsroom, our newspaper is also benefiting from stories they are digging out on a daily basis.

Each of the student reporters has been given a patch to cover across our four editions and contribute towards our daily community pages.

Adapting to life in a newsroom has been seamless. Although there is a dedicated classroom, it has a retractable wall which slides away when lessons are over and the students are part of the working newsroom.

The course – which started in September last year and finishes this June – has already received accreditation by the NCTJ. The panel members praised the new initiative and were impressed with what they had seen.

We hope it will pave the way for more newspapers to follow suit.

John Cary, the NCTJ’s head of accreditation, adds:

The News in Portsmouth and Highbury College have come up with a new development in training which fits into a clear direction of travel for a number of courses accredited by the NCTJ.

Several other courses already know the benefits of being based in the same building as a newspaper, and a strong work experience programme has long been an important part of any good course.

In recent months, on accreditation visits from the north east of England to the south coast – and all points in between – I have listened to tutors describing the ever-closer links they are forging with major news organisations in their local areas.

Traditional “go out and find a story” training exercises are being supplemented and sometimes replaced by the real thing – students working their patches to find stories which will be published in newspapers or on websites.

That level of real-world reporting experience must be persuasive when editors are working their way through a pile of CVs looking to appoint their next trainees.

There are obvious benefits for the papers involved too. They have extra eyes and ears out and about in their community, bringing in stories that staff reporters have not got the time to dig out.

As these new partnerships develop, it’s been heartening to find that both editors and tutors recognise the need to be fair in their treatment of students. The NCTJ is asking that employers and training providers produce fair, clear and enforceable guidelines for work experience.


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  • January 28, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    This kind of relationship between keen students and a busy newspaper supported by their college and enlightened editors is a positive for the industry – until you read the words Johnston Press on the wall of the newsroom.
    Presumably the students are looking to get jobs in the media, perhaps on a daily? That’s fine and how, with work experience, holiday working and badgering editors, the next generation used to get on the first rungs of the professional journalism ladder.
    Except, in JP’s business model, soon even the brightest graduate journalist will be competing with Mrs Miggins’ court reports, a kid with a Samsung Galaxy snapping an RTA and a content skimming algorithm to get even a sniff of a (probably unpaid) job.

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  • January 28, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Quote from story: “For many years journalists have learned their craft in colleges and universities before getting their big break.”
    The fact is that you can’t beat on the job training. You don’t need a university degree for your average regional general news publication.
    Editors have been in favour for years because it makes them feel more important.
    The NUJ has always pushed graduate entry to increase pay levels for its members.
    University grads do not understand ordinary people. They speak a different language.
    It’s as daft as saying you must obtain a degree before being allowed to write a work of fiction.
    Incidentally, just look at all the contributors to HTFP who don’t know the difference between its and it’s. Did they learn this at university?

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