Winds of change' to blow through out of date NCTJ

Butcher: wants working editors on NCTJ board

A wind of change is blowing through the NCTJ, its chief executive has told journalism lecturers and course heads.

Joanne Butcher admitted at a meeting of the Association of Journalism Educators that the NCTJ suffered from an old-fashioned image.

Speaking at Lincoln University, Butcher said: “Deserved or not the NCTJ has a reputation of being out of touch, out of date and old-fashioned.”

Butcher admitted the NCTJ’s system of accrediting training courses was seen as “inadequate and unfair”; and said it was a weakness of the organisation that none of its 10 full-time staff were journalists and its board was “full of older men”.

She said: “We need to examine our governance as a matter of urgency. We need to ensure that a culture of journalism, of working journalists permeates every aspect of what we do.”

Butcher told the conference her aim was to make the NCTJ recognised “inside and outside the media as the primary body for developing qualified journalists”.

She told delegates: “The winds of change are blowing. We have a modernising agenda.”

Butcher said the NCTJ would be: Setting up a new accreditation body for approving journalism courses; Recruiting working editors to its board; Making the NCE more relevant.

She claimed the continuing popularity of journalism gave the NCTJ room to expand beyond its traditional roots in the regional press to other media and include courses to improve journalists’ skills throughout their working life, as well as developing the organisation as a centre for research, information and careers advice.

Butcher said she also wanted the NCTJ to have an important role advising the Government and as a lobbying group.

She claimed workplace NVQs, seen as a rival to NCTJ qualifications, had not proved popular. “NVQs haven’t taken off as many would have wished and have an uncertain future in terms of take-up,” she said.

A number of leading journalism training centres, including City University and the London College of Printing, do not bother with NCTJ accreditation.

Some of the conference delegates claimed the NCTJ put too much emphasis on training journalists for the regional press. There was also concern that students were having to pay extra to sit NCTJ exams.

Rod Allen, head of City University’s journalism department, pointed out that many of his postgraduates went straight on to national papers. It was suggested that at national newspaper level postgraduate qualifications had more credibility than those of the NCTJ.

But Tony Harcup, of Trinity and All Saints, Leeds, said NCTJ qualifications made students more employable in the local press. “I think it is the best place to start. We might have a better national press if more people started in the regions.”

However, he did agree the NCTJ exams were oldfashioned and advised students to “imagine the regional press in the Fifties” when they sat them.

By Jon Slattery

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