Trainee journalists must be prepared for a constantly changing news environment says Birmingham regional editor

Trainee journalists - and the courses they study on - need "total flexibility and total adaptability" to succeed in the future, a leading regional editor told the NCTJ Journalism Skills Conference.

Marc Reeves, editor-in-chief of Trinity Mirror Midlands, wanted recruits to have a full range of skills to prepare for the constantly-changing environment in which journalists worked.

He favoured a greater understanding of analytics as part of engaging the audience: "We make sure we understand in the moment and in the longer term the audience is reacting."

Joy Yates, group editor of Johnston Press North East, also wanted recruits with traditional skills -especially shorthand - and an understanding of connecting with an audience through social media. She said: "be engaging, otherwise your audience is just going to go elsewhere."

David Jennings, head of regional and local programmes at BBC Birmingham, said he thought the NCTJ course remained strong, and endorsed the call for training across a range of skills. But he worried that 18-year-olds today lacked the hinterland of knowledge about the world that he had when he undertook his NCTJ training 35 years ago.

He urged courses to get students to spend half an hour a day reading newspapers: "We can't stop the move away from print. But there is something very special about newspapers."

Hyperlocal website owner Jamie Summerfield told the conference, held at the BBC Academy in Birmingham, about the "massive risk" of launching a site focused on reporting his own local community in 2010. "You need to be comfortable with constant change," he said.

The BBC's local live initiative had been a positive first step to creating partnerships with hyperlocal sites, and offered them "a badge of respectability".

Pictured: Joy Yates, Johnston Press North East (South); Marc Reeves, Trinity Mirror Midlands; David Jennings, BBC; and Jamie Summerfield, A Little Bit of Stone. Photography by BBC Academy/Mark Robertson