NCE: training the lowest common denominator?
Editors involved in a review of the National Council for Training of Journalists’ NCE qualification for senior journalists have urged the training body to continue emphasizing traditional journalism skills over the use of new media.
…“without the solid grounding of journalism, good news writing, accuracy and sound interviewing skills to support the technical ability to write for blogs/web/social networking sites, the quality of that journalism will suffer and will become indistinguishable from citizen journalism.”
[the] “ability to spot a story, conduct a strong interview and then produce clean, legally sound, well-structured copy remains the priority”, and that “with these key skills everything else (social media, video etc) will follow”.
All makes a weird kind of logical sense doesn’t it – Get the basics right first and the rest will follow.
But there is an equally important reason for picking up the NCE
“Editors are now able to shortlist and recruit candidates who have passed the exam,” the report said.
Of course it would. It was written by the people who set (and charge for) the exam.
So far so business as normal with the old vs. new media debate.
What industry needs right now not what’s right for industry
Frustrating as it is, I’m not surprised by the report or the reaction to it. I’ve kind of moved beyond being annoyed by the continued blurring of the lines between NCTJ marketing and the ‘views of industry’. What annoys me about this report is that it’s so output driven – it’s all about getting the paper out not about the process.
Looking at the relative importance of things just underlines how output driven it it is.What better way to *interact with readers/viewers and listeners* than social media. It isn’t the only way but it’s a good way and yet social media is down the running order. When your editor can’t afford to let you out of the office and you have to do all your work via computer, some web skills would be important in* finding news stories* wouldn’t they? So why are they languishing at the bottom of the list?
Because they are seen as a way of getting content out there not getting content in or helping with the journalistic process. They will always be less important than getting the paper/programme out.
The responses also underlines a general attitude from editors that they are only interested in trainees with the skills they need to run the newsroom. Whilst that might be a very real issue for them (and perfectly valid), for journalism in general* it’s training for the lowest common denominator not for the future.*
What’s important for the medium
In my digital newsroom module I’ve been using a 2009 Journalism Skills survey from skillset that outlines the skills gaps across new and trad skills.I think it’s clear that the priority of choices is completely driven by the medium. When it comes to traditional skills the basics are there but, again, I think the mediums show through. I use this stuff to show that the mediums demand a set of skills but the importance is purely down to the medium. Learn all of them and inject appropriate amounts of digital to help you along and your better placed to exploit opportunities across all the mediums.
In that sense its a much more honest and useful report and it underlines what this NCE report is really about. It’s not really about what’s important but WHY. That’s driven by the medium and it’s demands and in that respect it has little or nothing to do with a broad concept of good journalism. It’s more about feeding the machine.
Look, I’m not saying the NCE isn’t valuable or worth doing. It is. I’m not saying that the basic skills are not important. Unlike many of the editors, I’m happy to see the importance of all the skills mentioned. * But lets’ have a little honesty in this.
The truth is that whether you think that some skills are fundamental (basic?) or not when it comes to the new stuff the following is true:
So if you’re a journalist looking at this report I’d suggest a more open mind . See it as checklist not a hierarchy. See it for what it is and where it has come from.
Above all else, don’t let people with an agenda dictate what skills you learn. The truth is that none of this is difficult and there are some great people, editors amongst them, yes,online. They are right across this stuff (trad and new) who can help.
** I wish I didn’t have to but if I don’t say this then I’m simply a neophyte who doesn’t understand what proper journalism is all about! Maybe I don’t!*