Most regional newspaper editors prefer to take trainees from journalism courses accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) since this will mean candidates have passed national preliminary exams in law, government and reporting skills, as well as attaining 100wpm shorthand. Indeed, the country's biggest newspaper groups now normally insist on these basic NCTJ qualifications unless they are hiring a trainee with a view to sponsoring their training (see below).
These journalism courses are ideal if you know you want a career in the regional press – although the price and length of courses vary greatly around the country and it’s well worth checking out all the options.
Courses range from block release to fast-track graduate courses, full-year undergraduate courses and foundation degrees. There are more than 40 of them, and full details of accredited courses can be found on www.nctj.com.
The drawback of such journalism courses is that they may not be ideally suited to you if you are not sure that you want to start your career in regional newspapers. They are, of necessity, classroom orientated, since passing the relevant law and government exams, and attaining 100wpm shorthand, require considerable training input.
The best journalism courses also have well-equipped newsrooms, produce their own student papers and focus strongly on practical journalism skills. Some of the best-known and respected centres include those at Darlington, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Harlow, Preston, Newcastle (Press Association), Cardiff and Nottingham. Students wanting an NCTJ course based in Central London should look at the Press Association course in Victoria and News Associates in Wimbledon.
There’s no better way of starting your career than to have your training sponsored by your future employer – but of course that means getting the job first! One of the most respected fast-track intensive journalism courses in the country is run by the Press Association in Newcastle and London. It offers a number of self-sponsored places, but some students have their fees paid by their future employers having been selected as trainees at interviews in regional centres around the country.
The big newspaper groups are worth checking out both for work experience and training opportunities, which will often only be advertised locally. Check out the main players who control hundreds of titles between them - Trinity Mirror, Newsquest, Archant, Johnston Press, Northcliffe Newspapers, Guardian Media Group, Midland News Association.
There are also some smaller groups and independent titles, so it is worth exploring all the publications produced locally.
If you are unsure which area of journalism you wish to specialise in, the London School of Journalism offers an intensive, practical postgraduate diploma course based at its college in Maida Vale. The course covers news and feature writing, sub-editing and design, media law and an introduction to broadcast journalism. Courses range from three to six months and include a two-year online option.
In addition to the websites operated by the big newspaper groups, the following are useful too:
www.nctj.com - for a full list of accredited NCTJ courses
www.lsj.org - for journalism training options in London and distance-learning options
www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk - for journalism news, vacancies and useful site links
www.pressgazette.co.uk - for industry news and contacts
www.newspapersoc.org.uk - for industry news and useful links
www.societyofeditors.co.uk - for industry news and links
www.journalism.co.uk - for jobs, news and short courses