Nicola Furbisher is managing editor at Yorkshire Post Newspapers. She completed her NCTJ training at Richmond College, Sheffield.
Nicola discovered she wanted to be a journalist at the age of 16 after a local newspaper reporter came to her school to give a careers presentation. Describing it as a “lightbulb moment”, she quickly set about getting some experience in her chosen career.
“I can remember writing to all the local newspapers asking for work experience and they all turned me down except the Telegraph and Argus in Bradford, West Yorkshire,” she said. “Newsrooms were very different in those days- it was all typewriters, smoke-filled rooms and mainly male reporters”.
She added: “Being able to knock on doors, be allowed inside and be allowed to ask that person anything, to get their story was a real privilege and it just made me want to do it all the more”.
Nicola continued with her work experience placements and it was a reporter at the Halifax Courier who told her about the NCTJ course at Richmond College. Despite her school urging her to go to university, she applied to the course and was accepted.
“You were made to feel very, very lucky that you’d got on this course because the demand was so high and it was a very rigorous entry procedure,” said Nicola. “I can remember being absolutely terrified because you would be sitting next to people who had done massive amounts of work, or were already working, so it was quite daunting.”
During her time at college, she learned shorthand, media law and public administration, while finding stories for the Richmond Reporter.
Nicola said she would always be grateful for her time spent as a reporter on her local paper, the Brighouse Echo, which was her first job in the industry. It gave her the opportunity to experience “proper grass roots community journalism that all journalism is based on”.
It was during this time that she also learned the importance of building up a contacts book and building a rapport with key figures in the community.
"I would speak to them and get a story from them and then put it in my diary to ring them a week later, or a month later, or 6 months later, so that you never lose track of a good story.
“There were those who didn’t always provide you with good stories but became contacts because you spoke to them regularly. On a quiet day you could just ring them up and say, 'Is there anything happening?' More often than not they would say, 'Not really', but then go on and end up telling you a great story!”
From reporter, Nicola became crime correspondent for the Halifax Courier. She later moved to the Yorkshire Post to be chief reporter and news editor, before crossing the floor of the Wellington Street offices to become deputy editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post, followed by editor of the Derbyshire Times.
At the Yorkshire Post Nicola was one of the team responsible for the award-winning ‘Donnygate’ investigation into council corruption in Doncaster and ran the newsdesk during some of the biggest national and international events including 9/11 and the Bradford riots.
It was at the Derbyshire Times that she oversaw the transformation of the newsroom into the digital era. Nicola maintains she was helped in the venture by trainees who had been recently employed after completing NCTJ training courses, and who brought a wealth of digital savvy that complemented the traditional skills honed by the existing team.
When her husband got a job at European Parliament, Nicola moved with him to Brussels in 2012. During this period, she spent time working with charities and non-profits on social media and digital strategies, while “blogging furiously” on her photo/editorial blog Being in Brussels.
Although she had left the country, with so many social media channels available to her, Nicola was able to stay on top of what was happening in the industry in the UK and on her former titles, so that she could maintain her profile during her short sabbatical from the industry.
Now in her role as managing editor at Yorkshire Post Newspapers, NCTJ training remains one of the key criteria that she and her colleagues look for when recruiting journalists.
“These days, training is even more important because there isn’t the time that perhaps there once was for the mentoring, much as we still appreciate how important that is and we do try our best,” said Nicola. “It means that the trainees coming through and doing their work experience with us are expected to be much more able to hit the ground running.”
She added: “It’s not the kind of job that you do because you can’t think of anything else to do. It’s one of those jobs where we expect to see a passion, we expect to see a fire in the eyes”.
“Bottom line, is it somebody who is inspired to find out a really good story. The joy these days is we’ve got far more ways of telling that story to a much wider audience. But the basics haven’t changed, the basics being that you need somebody who can find that story and tell it in a manner that makes the reader want to find out more.”