Fascinating read about the future of journalism and advice to any recently graduated student.
“If you had a paper for every street, it would sell” – Really? – Bristol Editor – Social media, blogging, media relations, journalism and PR in BristolFebruary 11, 2011
Some of you may have heard of Anneka Masih recently. She is the NCTJ student who caused quite a stir by getting her name tattoed on her ankle, in shorthand. Holdthefrontpage broke the story, the NCTJ website covered it too. Even media commentator and City University lecturer Roy Greenslade gave it some blog-time, but not everyone has been very complimentary. Well here are Anneka’s thoughts on the story, her reasons for the tat and her feelings on shorthand in general:
Shorthand is something that I find inspirational. I’ve been interested in journalism for almost four years and my tattoo serves as a reminder of how far I have come. I chose to get my name tattooed in shorthand on my ankle for a personal reason. The tattoo symbolises the stage of my life where I want to pursue my career as a journalist, and it’s something I can always look back on. I thought the outline of my name was really interesting and wouldn’t offend anyone, nor would it be pointless. Some people get tattoos of patterns and flowers, or a specific design because the design itself was quite pretty. But I wanted more than that. This tattoo represents a stage of my life where I worked hard to achieve a goal.
I really enjoy learning shorthand and agreed to the story being published. The fact that people started commenting on it was really interesting to me. I personally didn’t expect lots of people to read it, and I definitely thought it would only be a light-hearted story. Suddenly, it became really controversial within a few hours of being posted. Something which was supposed to be symbolic to me had become this central point for people to start attacking me personally. Some people called me an ‘idiot’ and one person even called me a ‘chav’, even though they don’t actually know me. This is my first tattoo and I wanted it to be significant in my life, and not something I did when I was 17 and drunk or something that will lose its relevance in years to come.
Some people have argued that shorthand will be dead in a few years and the tattoo will therefore be irrelevant, but I have to disagree. Newspapers have survived for hundreds of years and I think shorthand will be a part of them for at least another 50.
The outline of the tattoo has also been criticised, with some saying that it’s not correct and it looks more like ‘anthka’ rather than ‘anka’. That’s actually not true and the outline can be read back as Anneka by several people who have studied journalism. No-one I’ve shown the tattoo to so far has said that it doesn’t say my name. It seems that people are nit-picking for no apparent reason.
Shorthand is something that I am looking forward to mastering, as it’s such an important skill to attain, especially for journalists. My story was never designed to offend anyone, but to show people how passionate you can be about journalism.
You can’t remember everything and sometimes you need to look stuff up. That’s what are books are for anyway and the NCTJ course is no different in requiring their students to own certain textbooks. Each course will be different but you can’t go wrong with the below:
Your Own Notes
It’s important to take notes in the classes. Do not rely on the textbooks alone or the handouts you are given in class. When it comes to cramming revision for Law and PA you are likely to understand the meaning of your own notes a lot quicker than relying on long passages in books.
The only book you will need for the law classes. It explains every part of media law in simple terms and also includes very handy examples, the knowledge of which will score you extra marks in your exam. At the end of each chapter there is a recap of the major points in bullet point form to aid revision as well.
Public Affairs for Journalists
Again this is the only book you will need for any PA class. In contrast to McNae’s though, do not rely on it for examples. Always keep up to date with government news as things happen every day which can be related to your PA class. The examples in the book are by no means terrible but they focus on Blair and Brown’s Labour government. For more marks in the exam you want to keep your examples as relevant as possible. Again the end of each chapter is useful for revision with further reading, review questions and online resources all offered.
This book by Ann Dix was preferred by my course in Wimbledon but there are other options available such as NCTJ Teeline Gold Standard for Journalists. Teeline Fast, however, is compact and concise and used in combination with your lessons will really help to get you through the theory of why you write shorthand the way you do.
Not one that I used during my time but seeing as the NCTJ has changed slightly and now has a whole module called Reporting, I’ll wager that this would be one of the key texts for that subject. It looks at everything from how a newsroom works to handling sound, pictures and the web and with more of a focus on web reporting in the NCTJ these days, this book looks a good bet.
At the end of the course, although you will be very tempted, don’t burn your books in celebration. Keep them, they not only serve a purpose while you are studying but they can be handy reference material when you work into your first job and need to report on a rape case in court.
A list of the books mentioned, and others can be found on Amazon here
Those Wannabe Hacks have done it again, given me more food for thought about how to progress the NCTJ and Beyond blog. I was reading one of their excellent posts the other day (you can read it here) and realised that I haven’t really done number five on that list, interacting with my readers out there.
Firstly, I would like to thank you all for taking the time to read the blog, comment on it and share it with others. In the short three months that I have been blogging there has been just over 1,500 page views. I consider that quite a success for a small, part time blog but I want to aim higher.
The blog has over 70 Twitter followers and 40 likes on its Facebook page. It is listed as one of the best “J-Blogs” on journalism.co.uk. It’s quite a solid readership base and there is potential to build on and I am very thankful to those who have jumped on board so far.
NCTJ and Beyond can always improve and reach greater heights and I would like to include the readers in helping the site grow. I would therefore like to open the blog to the floor and ask you all to give me some feedback. Is there a post you are screaming out for? Are there areas you think can be improved? Would you like to see more blogs more often? Any thoughts are welcome either on the comments, on Twitter or at the Facebook page.
In the meantime here are some of the most popular posts from the site that you may or may not have missed:
As a qualified journalist or recent graduate the final thing you need to do to get a job is stay patient, after all it is a virtue.
It is probably the simplest piece of advice that could be given to a recent graduate, but it is very important.
Things very rarely happen overnight and it could be a number of weeks or months before you get your break, but don’t panic you won’t be the only one.
Keep believing in your skills and your education and keep looking for jobs. Keep yourself fresh by blogging and networking in the mean time but stay patient, it will come eventually.
Try to keep yourself relevant during the time you are looking for a job, for example I enrolled on the NCTJ course to gain a further qualification and add another string to my bow. If you just look for jobs without keeping in touch with journalism you will only be hurting your chances.
Although it can be difficult if you are receiving knock backs or are just being ignored, stay enthusiastic as well. It can be easy to become pessimistic going into interviews after being turned down a few times, but put across your passion and your desire to succeed and, coupled with the things you will be doing in your spare time it won’t be long before you go from a qualified journalist to a paid journalist.
As I said at the start of this series I will be following my own advice as I hunt for my first job in the media, thank you to everyone that has followed the series and I hope at least some of it has been of use.
It seems so simple but you never know when an opportunity may crop up, but you won’t be able to capitalise on it if you aren’t available.
Some people, myself included, have to earn a living outside of journalism while they hunt for their first break. It can be difficult to try and get time off at short notice for interviews and calling in sick always causes problems, not least remembering what excuses you have used.
Try to arrange the interviews for a week in advance, if possible, and save at least five to ten days of your holiday for those occasions.
It’s not ideal but missing out on a few days holiday is definitely worthwhile if it means landing your first job.
Availability doesn’t just extend to interviews either. If your networking is paying off then, fingers crossed, you will have the opportunity to do the odd article here and there, and being able to say yes shows your commitment and your desire to work.
Advice on keeping yourself available can’t really be better put than by TV journalist Sarah Moore, guest posting on wannabehacks.co.uk:
If you don’t say yes to rushing out in the middle of the night to report on the flash floods, they won’t again. That’s just the way it goes. Say yes to everything and resign yourself to living in the newsroom.
You can read her full post here, which includes some great pointers.
Join us tomorrow for the final piece of the “What to do Next” series which handles the art of staying patient.
In the third of this week’s “what to do next” series I am going to be looking into the need of a portfolio for any recently graduated or qualified journalist.
During your journalism education you should have been provided with ample opportunity to write some stories and also to be published. During this time you would be well advised to keep these articles somewhere safe in order to create a portfolio of your work after you graduate.
During my NCTJ course I was asked to keep both my originally submitted copy and the published version so markers could see how much editing was needed for my copy. This is a great idea, though not advised for every single article you write, and really shows editors your skill in writing.
A portfolio can take many forms. Some look to blogs as a “rolling portfolio”, one that it is constantly changing with regular updates. Others choose to create websites in their own name to showcase the work they have done. Many, however just stick to the good old fashioned cutting and sticking into a ring binder or presentation book.
There isn’t a right or wrong way to make a portfolio and each one has their merits. As I mentioned in the first post of the series blogging is a great way of keeping your writing smooth and shows that you can write to a specific audience. A web based portfolio can give your work a real professional touch, if done well, and also showcases some more web based talents that could impress future employers. Finally, a paper based portfolio is always to hand and can be great to show off in an interview when a laptop or computer isn’t always available.
If you get the chance, develop all three. There can never be too many ways to put yourself in the shop window and time spent on your portfolio could be the difference in getting a job in the future.
The key to a good portfolio is presentation. This is your work, your pride and joy, so present it accordingly. There is nothing worse than a great story being viewed at a glance as a bit slap dash because the page wasn’t glued down fully, for example.
Another great tip is to include a little explanation (no more than a sentence or two) of how you came about the story. This is something else I have learnt through the NCTJ and shows people your enthusiasm for news and your ability to search out a story.
If you need any more tips on how to make a paper based portfolio you can’t far wrong with this guide on eHow.com.
Or if the online stuff suits you more check out this article on journalism.co.uk
Tune back in on Monday for the next post on making yourself available.