New developments discussed at NCTJ annual conference

New specialist options, a foundation certificate and an apprenticeship scheme were launched at the Journalism Skills Conference on Wednesday.

Details of the new developments were presented to delegates at the Nottingham Conference Centre by a panel of NCTJ advisors from the journalism industry.

Catherine Houlihan, head of news at ITV Anglia and NCTJ chief examiner, began the session by talking about the new broadcast module, an additional specialist option for Diploma in Journalism students.

She said the module, which was piloted at four centres last year, was a result of the demands for multi-skilled trainees and added that it was time for the NCTJ gold standard to be extended to include broadcast media.

Catherine said: “Employers want to get well trained journalists with basic skills who they can then mold to their house style”.  In terms of legal training and broadcast regulation, she said trainees were not expected to know everything but should know enough to spot potential legal problems. “I can’t afford to have someone in my newsroom who is going to land me in court or get a fine,” she said.

A new business and finance module, developed by media commentator and blogger Steve Dyson, is the latest addition to the Diploma in Journalism. Steve spoke about how it was essential that students had a chance to learn the basics of business reporting instead of being left to learn on the job, as he had done as industrial correspondent for Birmingham Evening Mail.

He said the NCTJ had got a module they could be proud of, with its content shaped by contributions from key people within the industry, including BBC business editor Robert Peston, who Steve described as “the most prolific member of the panel”.

The module, which was approved by the NCTJ board in August, will teach students the basics of business and finance reporting, including global economics, corporate finance and consumer affairs, and will be assessed by means of two written assessments.

Paul Watson, editorial consultant to the NCTJ, announced the development of an apprenticeship framework, an initiative that has already attracted support from the Evening Standard and The Independent. He said apprenticeships will provide people with another avenue into employment and help to combat the image of journalism as a “socially exclusive industry”.

Paul said: “There is an expectation that an apprentice will become the real deal. There should be progression and it (an apprenticeship) should not be seen as a dead end.”

He also spoke to delegates about the new Foundation Certificate in Journalism, designed to act as a starting point for those wanting to move onto the diploma and a means to provide community reporters or citizen journalists with relevant skills. The certificate will have more flexibility than the diploma, with 20 modules and the ability to pick and choose those relevant to the individual.