Editors quizzed by students at NCTJ Student Council conference

A panel of editors were quizzed by students about how to stand out against the crowd when competing for journalism careers at the annual NCTJ Student Council conference.

Hosted by the Financial Times on Friday, 31 January, the event provides a forum for students at courses across the UK to meet with the NCTJ, discuss their training and share ideas.

More than 50 student representatives were in attendance, and had the opportunity to have their questions answered by the ‘meet the editors’ panel, which was chaired by Scheherazade Daneshkhu, director of editorial talent at the Financial Times.

Joining the panel were Will Harrison, editor of Newsquest South London, Louise Hastings, managing editor at Sky News, Luke Jacobs, brands editor at KentLive, and Mike Shallcross, associate publisher at Mark Allen Group.

When asked about the most important qualities they look for in prospective journalists, Louise said: “I love it when people are fizzing with ideas, it gives me the impression you are willing to take a risk and knock ideas around. That’s what I look for.”

Luke added: “Ambition, creativity and an open mind will stand you in good stead as a journalist. Come to a work placement with ideas and have the confidence to follow them through.”

The students were interested to learn from the editors their advice on standing out when sending applications for jobs.

Luke said: “Perhaps you come from a community that you feel is under-represented, make sure you come with ideas about this and examples for stories.”

Will added: “Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to the editor. That forces me to get to know you a little bit. Then when I look at your CV, I’m more likely to remember you.”

The panel were further quizzed about how to fight back against the London bubble and advice for networking at such an early stage in their careers.

Mike said: “One thing that really justifies the fees you spend on journalism courses is that you are sat surrounded by journalists. Start your network now, build it from people you know.”

Further advice was given by Stuart Thomas, job board manager at Cision Jobs, who provided the students with tips on how to find their first journalism jobs.

Attendees also heard from Rhoda Morrison, a reporter at the Bury Free Press, and Hannah Butler, sub-editor at The Guardian, about progressing from the Diploma in Journalism to the National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ).

Hannah, who embarked on the NQJ’s sub-editing pathway, advised students to not be afraid to find your niche and go with it.

The students also had the opportunity to have their questions answered by senior NCTJ staff. The panel answered questions from students on a variety of topics, including new elective modules, exams, grading, e-portfolio requirements and training for community news reporters.