Knowing about public affairs is more relevant to journalists today than ever before. That was the message from Kim Fletcher, NCTJ chairman, at the launch of a new book on the subject in London today.
Public Affairs for Journalists was launched at a lunchtime reception at financial publisher Bloomberg, in the company of tutors and heads of journalism on NCTJ-accredited courses, publishers Oxford University Press, NCTJ board members, editors and students, among others.
Author James Morrison was on hand to speak about the trials of writing the book and signed copies for dozens of students.
Speaking at the event, Kim Fletcher, NCTJ chairman, said: “If ever there were a reason to know about public affairs, we are living through it. We have to know about ministers, governments, and the way they operate and spend money. Their actions impinge on everything we do.
“As journalists, we have to understand what is going on at this level – scrutinising it and questioning it. If we aren’t looking at what is going on with our governments, we are missing a vital function of the role of the journalist.
“This book is a valuable tool in bringing together all you need to know to fulfil this vital role in one volume.”
A punchy, practical introduction to all aspects of central and local government, Public Affairs for Journalists equips students, trainees and journalists with all the information they need to cover the subject confidently and to help prepare for NCTJ exams.
Having seen previews of the publication, Roger Alton, editor of The Independent, said: “This is a wonderfully thorough, clear and up-to-date guide to the political mechanics of the country. James Morrison takes readers by the hand and leads them expertly through the twisty byways of British public life and its multifarious institutions.”
Amanda Ball, NCTJ chief examiner for public affairs, said: “This is an invaluable text for both journalism students and industry practitioners. Morrison not only explains how the political system works, he explains why it matters to both training and working reporters and the relevance of political stories to the daily lives of readers, viewers and listeners.”
The text starts with the emergence of Britain's constitution, the changing role of the monarchy and the origins of parliamentary democracy and prime ministerial government. It explores the roles of individual departments of state, such as the Treasury, and recent moves away from ‘big government’ towards more localised and commercially-driven forms of public service delivery. It also looks at Britain's position in the world with chapters on the EU and international relations.
The book also examines the evolution of the present-day local authority framework. It explores the complexities of local government finance and explores the roles of elected councillors, emergency services and individual council departments. The book concludes by looking at the Freedom of Information Act.
James Morrison is a freelance journalist, writer and lecturer. He is a senior examiner and member of the NCTJ’s Public Affairs Examinations Board.
Public Affairs for Journalists is based on the NCTJ’s public affairs modules and examinations and includes a comprehensive glossary of key terms. The book is accompanied by an Online Resource Centre with web links and regular updates.
It is available to buy from the NCTJ website’s eStore, along with a host of other key texts for a career in journalism.