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Training Matters: Inside the 2016 NCTJ Student Council

Gemma Louise StevensonThe annual NCTJ Student Council forum is a chance for student representatives from every accredited course across the UK to speak to the senior management team, discuss aspects of the industry’s training scheme and contribute to its ongoing development. The event is also an opportunity for the representatives to get advice from alumni now working in the industry and to network with editors who provide a wealth of insider knowledge.

Gemma-Louise Stevenson, left, a journalism student at St Mary’s University, Twickenham and a Journalism Diversity Fund recipient, discusses what she learned at the latest Student Council event on Friday, 5 February.


“Give life’s little guys some ink and when it dries just watch what happens”

A line from Newsies (the musical based on the New York city newsboy strike of 1899) that I belted out on stage as a trainee performer, but a line that I finally learnt the true meaning of as a trainee journalist.

As trainees I don’t think we always comprehend that what we are writing on the page or broadcasting has the power to affect change both in the industry and the communities for which we are writing.

And for many of us the first real taste we will get of this will be when we have swapped the cosseted world of our courses for the newsroom.

That is unless we have been selected as one of 80 accredited course representatives to attend the NCTJ Student Council, which this year was hosted at the colourful London headquarters of Google UK.

Greeted by NCTJ chairman Kim Fletcher and Google News Lab’s Matt Cooke, you couldn’t help but feel the excitement and optimism for the future of the industry.

A sentiment that was echoed by all of the panellists throughout the day, including executive editor of Sky Sports News Andy Cairns, who emphasised that it was not just those in training but those working in the industry already that would have to embrace change.

He said: “We’re all going to have to reinvent ourselves in the next few years.”

For the NCTJ, this means having to adapt quickly to the new training demands that these changes will inevitably bring.

To many students they are a group of harsh critics who, with the stroke of a pen, can decide whether your exam answers warrant that elusive gold standard or not.

But, to those of us who met them, an open minded group of people who are willing to listen, understand and respond fully to any praise and, most importantly, criticism thrown at them.

Of course the regular hot topics of public affairs, reporting and shorthand exams were the first to be discussed.

(I’m sorry to say fellow students but no matter how much you hate the hours spent slaving over Teeline, it was agreed by everyone in the room, that it is still a vital skill to possess.)

However, high on the agenda for the day was the partnership between the NCTJ and Google News Lab.

I was well aware that Google data was increasingly used in newsrooms but in all honesty couldn’t understand how I would use it in a real life situation.

That was until we spent 30 minutes in the company of Matt, who shared with us his top ten tips for using the tools in the future.

With all this talk of the future though, it’s easy to forget about what being part of the Student Council has offered us in the here and now.

And as we move forward it’s worth remembering that connections we made in that room with our contemporaries will stay with us forever, and our unique position as trainees in an era of industry change means that like Katherine in Newsies we’ll have front row seats to watch what happens.

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