Ethics, Public Affairs and Tools for the Data Journalist

By Jane Renton, Journalism Diversity Fund recipient, Nottingham Trent University

Trainee journalists facing changes to the NCTJ training curriculum will be unsettled by the news delivered at the fifth annual Journalism Skills Conference in Nottingham. We still have to do shorthand.

Leveson aside, it couldn’t get much worse than that.

The focus of today’s formal, and buffet-lunch informal, debate was the need for a “new culture of ethics” in the industry.

As the day saw the release of advance copies of the report into press standards by the Leveson Inquiry, it was exquisite timing.

Opening the conference, Professor Neil Gorman, vice chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, said: “Being in journalism at the moment is a touchy subject. Journalists are the new bankers. Do you hate journalists or do you hate bankers?”

While Nick Robinson was still waiting to deliver his live big reveal on the Leveson Inquiry, the NCTJ had already stolen the march. The Guardian readers’ editor Chris Elliott said it would be “crazy for the NCTJ not to take cognisance of what has happened around Leveson”.

Ethics is to become a bigger part of an NCTJ qualification. ‘Practical Journalism Ethics’ will become a compulsory stand-alone module and the Public Affairs module will be “streamlined”, with an optional political reporting module being developed. The PA feature will also no longer be a requirement in the portfolio.

Concern was raised by some that future students may not be adequately familiar with government structures.

“The new political module will be the place to do that (detailed PA stories).” said Janet Jones, chief examiner for Public Affairs.

As it turned out, nobody needed to have worried.

Introducing ‘Tools for the Data Journalist,’ Google UK’s Stephen Rosenthal claimed the internet, or was it just Google(?), to be “the salvation of journalism”.

Surfing trends, tracing the zeitgeist or simply monitoring “the massive spike in Tom Daley’s tiny trunks”.There is data on literally everything.

Maybe someone should have told Leveson. In the event, they told Google.