Student Council representatives advised to 'never stop learning'

Sky Sports News executive editor Andy Cairns has rallied NCTJ journalism students to sell their skills to employers and never stop learning.

Andy, who is also a member of the NCTJ accreditation board, was speaking as part of an editor and alumni panel at the annual NCTJ Student Council event on Friday, 5 February hosted by Google UK.

The panel also featured Laura Adams, editorial director, Archant London and NCTJ director; Matt Cooke, Google News Lab lead for the UK, Ireland and the Nordics; and George Sargent, social media producer, Reuters television agency.

In response to a student’s question about what employers are looking for in their reporters, Andy advised the audience not to be shy about the skills they have to offer and always look for ways of improving themselves, both during their NCTJ training and during their careers.

This was a sentiment echoed by Laura Adams, who encouraged all students to ask employers about a development plan and stressed the importance of learning the craft of reporting. She added that she was looking for trainees who would be audience-focused while maintaining the core values of journalism.

She said: “As journalists we are responsible for delivering the truth and we should never compromise on that.”

Students also asked about the issue of public trust in the media, the globalisation of news and consumer trends for the future.

Google UK’s Matt Cooke advised students that mobile is now even more important than social media in terms of reaching audiences. Matt, who worked as a journalist for the BBC before joining Google, also told students to always be prepared with story ideas and think about new ways of telling those stories.

George Sargent, an NCTJ alumnus who trained at the University of Sheffield, advised students to gain as many skills as possible while on-course and network to get work experience that would help to build a CV. He discussed his role in verifying content found on social media and cautioned students that no story is worth the reputation of their employer, saying that a good reputation is one of the most treasured things a journalist can have.

The annual Student Council forum provides an opportunity for students on accredited courses across the UK to discuss aspects of the industry’s training scheme and contribute to its ongoing development. Preceding the panel discussion, the NCTJ senior management team, including chief executive Joanne Butcher, took questions from the student representatives on all aspects of accredited courses, including: exam availability; the scope of current Diploma in Journalism exams; and student study resources.