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Training Matters: Journalism careers advice 1960s-style

In this week’s blog, Lisa Nelson, marketing and communications manager, takes a look at the careers advice given to journalists in the 1960s.

Last week a package arrived at our offices with a collection of journalism careers brochures and NCTJ qualifications information from the 1960s.

It came from a family member of the late Keith Gascoigne, the first business editor the Birmingham Post, who was briefly involved in journalism training.

A flick through the musty pages painted a very different picture to what we know now: black and white photographs of men with horn-rimmed glasses surrounded by papers, typewriters, spikes and paste pots.

The publications specifically address the question of opportunities for women to find jobs in the industry. At a time when only a quarter of new entrants were women, it is suggested that if they want to specialise, they should think about the areas of “fashion and home and social questions” (sport, industry or municipal affairs for men), but stressed that women only occasionally become newspaper sub-editors or editors.

The NCTJ’s recent Journalists at Work report painted a very different picture. The national data suggests that there are only slightly more male than female journalists (52 per cent compared to 48 per cent) and women now hold some of the more senior positions in the industry.

While there is still work to be done in this area, the progress made to date is encouraging.

The industry has also widened considerably. In 1968, the only channels offered to journalism hopefuls were through the regional daily and weekly papers or on the periodical press.

While these remain important routes into the industry, they now sit alongside editorial apprenticeships, internships and graduate programmes at nationals. Even on the traditional print platforms, multiskilling and digital skills have never been more important.

The NCTJ’s training has adapted to the full range of storytelling formats now available following the internet revolution. As well as the core skills (media law, public affairs, reporting and shorthand), the NCTJ now offers broadcast and video journalism for online.

As the industry adapts to the changes technology has made to traditional publishing, the NCTJ are ready to make sure their needs are met through innovative training.

However, despite the differences, some journalism skills are timeless. They are as important 50 years ago as they are now, and most likely 50 years from now, when today’s students may be teaching journalism skills to young journalism students.

It is still vital that students learn how to find the stories that matter to their audience and have the skills to tell those stories clearly, precisely and accurately. These skills remain at the heart of NCTJ training.

There was one paragraph that summed this up very well: “You must be persistent but not rude, sympathetic but not gullible, sceptical but not cynical. You must also have an enquiring mind and an appetite for information and as a result of practical experience be able to develop the news sense which is vital to a journalist.”

Good advice, no matter which decade you’re training in.


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  • July 15, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    I managed a career spanning 44 years in the regional press. My main qualification for entry into the profession in 1969 was “I could start on Monday”.

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  • July 15, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Careers advice from circa 1966: I told careers master I wanted to be a journalist. He said: “You’ll never get in. How about working in a bank?”

    I ignored the advice. At 18, I left college on the Friday and started work as a trainee reporter the following Monday – as an indentured apprentice.

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