February 8 saw 43 student representatives from accredited journalism courses across the UK come to London’s MSN headquarters for the NCTJ’s 2013 student council.
That we were invited to bring the views of course peers through the polished glass doors of the Microsoft building was testament to the NCTJ’s commitment to student consultation, and the day did not disappoint.
Praising the NCTJ’s successes and highlighting their points of weakness for future improvement, as representatives we were encouraged to hold the council’s senior members to account through a question and answer session.
NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher chaired a panel including Amanda Ball, principal examiner, Lyn Jones, head of qualifications and Helen Tindle, head of examinations, with the four fielding a range of enquiries on modules and exams.
Scrutinising the four with the sorts of tough questions no doubt expected by a group of eager trainee journalists, topics discussed included the perceived narrowness of media law papers, the breadth of the public affairs syllabus and the constraints of early-morning shorthand exams.
Later came a group discussion and feedback session, which proved enlightening.
Praising the NCTJ’s high standards in providing industry-approved training, it was nonetheless interesting to note many students had the same quibbles and qualms with certain aspects of the diploma.
In particular, multiple groups raised the multi-platform reporting examination as something which they wanted changed, with students arguing it is little more than a box-ticking exercise which leaves no room for creativity.
Quibbles and qualms aside, the day offered an insight into the careers of some of the NCTJ’s most successful alumni with edifying talks from Sky Sports News sub editor Joanna Wilson and Eastern Daily Press business writer Ben Woods providing the incentive to go after those much-craved dream jobs.
The highlight of the day came in the form of a talk from The Sun’s investigations editor Brian Flynn, who regaled us with tales of undercover espionage and bringing home the best scoops from disaster zones and war-ravaged areas.
After time for networking, the council was closed with a useful ‘meet the editors’ session in which questions were put to executive editor of Sky Sports News Andy Cairns, MSN editor-in-chief Dominic Eames, Archant London group editor Malcolm Starbrook and Prima magazine’s features and health editor, Karen Swayne.
Andy urged us to ensure we get the most out of our course providers and what the NCTJ has to offer.
The 2013 Student Council proved the body’s continued relevance within the industry, and I hope the important points raised by students form the basis of the diploma’s development in order to ensure the qualification is perfected for future trainees.