Financial protection for NCTJ courses

Rachel McAthy at chips in to the recent NCTJ debate asking NCTJ accreditation: essential or an outdated demand? She reports on the recent meeting of the NCTJ’s cross-media accreditation board where the answer is an emphatic, if predictable, yes.

Most interesting for me though was a quote from the report of the meeting by Professor Richard Tait, director of the Centre of Journalism Studies at Cardiff University:

While the NCTJ is quite right to insist on sufficient resources and expertise so that skills are properly taught and honed, education is a competitive market, and NCTJ courses are expensive to run. In the likely cuts ahead, it is vital for accredited courses to retain their funding so that they are not forced to charge students exorbitant fees; otherwise, diversity will be further compromised.

On the face of it a reasonable demand. But one that in turn demands a lot more clarification.  Who should be offering that financial security?  The universities, the industry or the NCTJ who take a fee.

Some more NCTJ bursaries perhaps….

Digital job hunting

Last week I gave a short lecture to broadcast (and a smattering of magazine) students about using the web to help find a job.

I tried to sum the whole thing up in a pithy slide:

It was really about fitting digital in to an already well established pattern for job hunting – traditional ad’s with a good slice of what and who you know.

That’s why I started with a list of job sites offering a digital way of doing that long slog of working through the job ad’s.  No surprise there then.

But I made the point that looking for work in a converged world mean’t a bit of a change of perspective.

Even though you may come from a broadcast tradition and your target job may be in a traditional environment (radio newsroom for example) the market is increasingly varied. (as my highly technical diagram shows) Your skills carry across boundaries in a converging world. You could end up as a radio producer at a newspaper working on their podcasts or working for an online only publication working on video.

Increasingly that converged mindset is what you have to cultivate to get work. But I think it’s also  the mindset to apply for job hunting. Don’t limit yourself to one sector. Instead of starting in one of the circles, position yourself in the middle and aim at all of them. You never know what might crop up. So my tip around searching for jobs also included searching for jobs.

By searching for something like radio OR broadcast jobs UK you get a rich and broad pot that you can then start to refine and filter. To develop your searches, think laterally. Add phrases that are specific to your area of interest or that would be unique to a job : radio OR broadcast ~job +salary +enps uk.

Remember the aim here is not to get Google to simply churn out job ads; the jobs sites will do that. It’s also to introduce an element of serendipity in to the mix that will richen your understanding of the market.

Of course the introduction of a broader range of sites means more content to wade through so you’ll also need to consider ways to manage the flow. Simple things like setting up a Google Alert based on the search terms you enter can help. But you may also want to get your RSS reader working for you to pull all your job related feeds in to one place that you can search and filter.

If a speculative google search throws up an interesting company (who don’t have jobs but you might want to keep an eye on) then search for an RSS feed to subscribe to. Then when a job comes up you know what they have been up to.

When the orginal slides went up in a post on, John Thompson pointed out a way to get custom RSS feeds based on custom searches.

In the top left-hand column on most of the pages on, you will see a panel headed “Job of the week”. About half-way down there is a dropdown menu that allows you to search by job type. For this example, select “editorial assistants and trainees” and click “go”.

On the subsequent search results page, you will see at the top of the central column an advanced search form. This allows you to make a more detailed search based on sectors, categories, salary and location. You will also see an option under format to “return search results as RSS feed”. Select that and also tick “editorial assistants and trainees” under the “categories” section.

Click the search button and, voila, you will be presented with a customised RSS feed containing only editorial assistant and trainee vacancies.

Josh Halliday got in touch via twitter so say he has put together a combined RSS feed of popular job sites that you can subscribe to. (thanks Josh)

I’ve put together an RSS bundle of just five of the UK’s most comprehensive media jobs listings sites: GorkanaGuardian JobsHold The Front Page and the Editorial Jobs Twitter feed (it’s RSS is borked).

And don’t forget that there are other ‘oldschool’ ways. Sign up for email newsletters like the Gorkana alert

The Shmoozing bit.
In the media people will often tell you that it’s about who you know rather than what. So whilst the broad searching will tell you what jobs are available and give a broad view of what’s going on we need to get next to some real people.

At this point it’s worth stressing that this is not about using digital to replace the process. You still need to get out there and meet people. But we can build our own networks online that help us connect and experience the churn or views and news from the industry. It could be eavesdropping on the latest gossip to build up ‘intelligence’ or even using the community to help you get a job.

But if it’s about who you know, how do we know who to connect with?

This is where social networking sites like Twitter come in to their own. They offer an easy way to find and connect with people in your community. Take a look at MediaUK’s twitter page (@mediauk). Obviously a popular follow and the kind of thing that a lot of people in the industry would look at. Now we could go through the list of people that follow and are followed by @mediauk to find useful people; use their contacts if you like. But notice their lists

Mediauk's twitter lists

They are nicely split in to sections and make following a glut of people in your area easy. If you find someone on the list who really resonates with you or fits right in to your area then look at their lists (if they have them) and build your network.

The same logic (if not the same mechanics) work for other social networking sites. Take a look at LinkedIn or even Facebook. Connect with one person or join a Facebook group and you’ll open yourself up to more connections.

Of course, the key to success in social networks is to be an active part; Share, listen, help, participate. All of these things will build your profile. And profile is important as it doesn’t just build your recognition within the community (the most valuable part) but it also makes you more visible online.

The lists from mediaUK are actually generated from user submissions – you can go to their site and add yourself. That’s an easy way to be pro-active about building visibility. For some this might fall in to the ‘rampant self promotion’ section but it’s a way of getting your name out there.

That’s why I think a blog is still a valuable tool in your job searching kit.

Many people are leaving blogs behind in favour of the more dynamic ‘statusphere’ of twitter and social networks. But a blog offers something a little more stable, a more permanent place for you online. It offers you a chance to reinforce and expand your online identity. (I will always look at the link that people put in their twitter profile to get more information about a person.) To start with you could use it simply as a static CV/Portfolio site that you can point people to when applying for jobs. But it could soon expand to offer more. More active posting about your experiences and interests attract audience.

The most popular blogs within the journalism community tend to be the ones that share experiences – Think about Josh sharing that list of RSS feeds. It’s journalists trying things and showing their working out. Thats valuable to the community and people remember you for that (you’re playing an active role). That’s one of the reasons I linked to Adam Westbrook in the presentation. Like Josh, he’s a great example of someone who plays an active part in the community.

You could ask ‘why a blog and not a static website?’ My first response is that blogging is one of those things that you should have experience of in a converged world (back to my point earlier). But there are some, more practical reasons.

There are lots of great website builders out there (I’d add Jimdo to that list ), but blogs offer a lot of under the bonnet stuff that helps promote your stuff and make it easy to share. Built in notification of search engines and automatic RSS feeds are just two of the things that will help spread yourself around the web. They may be the thing that gets you popping up in a search engine when a prospective employer searches your name and it will link them to something that sells you appropriately.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet telling you how you can tweak a blog to start showing static pages rather than the more dynamic posts. You can change it later on when you are ready to go down the more dynamic posting route.

Given that this presentation was to broadcast students I also looked at the problems associated with multimedia on free sites and blogs. I’ve listed a number of third party hosts that you can try to get round some of those restrictions. Using a third party site also has the benefit of getting your work out there on another platform to another audience.

So, there it is. Use the web to sign up to job sites but don’t stop there. Use it to broaden your horizons, think multiplatform in where you look. Be part of and visible in the community and your profile will grow and that can only be a good thing.

I hope it made sense and if you have any questions then drop me a line.

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The challenge of a (university research) council website

ROCKVILLE, MD - OCTOBER 26:  Lab workers demon...
The newsroom of the Future?Image by Getty Images via Daylife

“Those ‘traditional’ consumers are joined by younger readers who prefer to find their news ‘unfiltered’ on the web. We are trying to serve both groups, and we are delighted with the enthusiasm that our new British partners bring to the effort.”

That from a press release for reported in

It’s essentially a website for Universities to publish research and news about their research. Why? Because…

In an increasingly complex world, the public needs access to clear, reliable research news. Futurity does the work of gathering that news. Think of it as a snapshot of where the world is today and where it’s headed tomorrow. Discover the future

A lot of this has a familiar ring. The claims sound a lot like the reasons why journalism is so important and the role of journalists will be vital.

But it also reminds me of the some of the issues that surround much of the ‘council newspapersdebate. These are organizations who should be open up to a bit of ‘filtering’ especially when there is public money involved . The content they put out should be open to scrutiny and question.

Of course this risks becoming a circular argument. If journalism was doing its job and reporting science properly then they wouldn’t need to do this.

But it also goes to underline what we already know but many media orgs seem to be unable to respond to; communities are using the web to tell their own stories.

In the case of it’s a community of interest (with all the self-interest issues that brings) but it’s just as common with hyperlocal communities of geography.

Whatever the motivation, is this the kind of thing that journalism needs to step up to?

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Newspaper video: Playtime = happy journos

Picture from Flickr user Huladancer

This has been sitting in my list of things to blog on, so with a bit of delay, here is an interesting bit of data from a recent report on digital journalism from a couple of PR companies.

[T]he study has uncovered a ‘40/40 Factor’ in action – 41% of respondents now produce more than 40% of their output online in the first instance. The ‘40/40 Factor’ is even more interesting when one considers it was only in October 2005 that the Daily Telegraph became the first UK newspaper to publish online, before the print edition.

Interesting stuff. A 40/40 distribution of web first. Could this be a candidate for 50/50?


But more interesting for me was the what the report has to say on video

61 per cent of UK respondents said their publications offered video or TV content as part of their online presence compared with 41 per cent of respondents from other European countries

That from Laura Oliver’s article on the report over at

Sounds like good news. But wait there are some howevers (they’re the new but you know):

However, over three quarters of UK respondents said that producing additional multimedia content for the web was the biggest challenge to their jobs.

Oh, dear

However, only 10 per cent of the overall respondents – and 14 per cent of those in the UK – said they had received training for producing multimedia content.

Double oh, dear.

In fact the survey says that 65% of those surveyed said they had trained themselves in podcasting and video.

Here is the reports take away graphic:

That’s pretty shoddy isn’t it.

But video seems to happen regardless. Some form of training must be happening.

My experience is that there is a lot of under the wire training going on. That’s born out by something I read on today.

In an interview with Alison Gow about the Liverpool Daily posts fantastic efforts online, we get an insight in to the way video works in Liverpool.

Video is a separate entity altogether – one video journalist is responsible for managing libraries, cutting pieces and training newsroom staff and reporters in video-journalism.

She has trained eight other staff so far, giving them a week’s hands-on training so that they can manage handicams and cut footage. They aim for a new web video each day.

That seems to be the way a lot of this is happening. A few people are training in house but the majority of journalists are doing it themselves.

I get (some) satisfaction

Does that make them unhappy?

It seems not.


This may come as a shock to the more for less brigade and, though it may be it’s a leap of logic on my part, it would seem that journalists enjoy learning new skills – wherever they are doing that.

For me that just underlines again the real importance of my hobby horse of playtime (set aside time for journalists to try new things). Give your journalists time to learn the new skills and maybe that ‘enjoy it more’ figure will grow.

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Times online and google maps

Times online map

I got a very nice mention on the Times website today. The Times’ Communities editor Tom Whitwell (thanks Tom) has added to a survey they did for the upcoming budget with a “now legally-required Google maps mashup

The map was built using Yahoo pipes and google maps, based on a post of mine with a little google forms magic built in. (Later: Just to clarify, that’s about the sum of my advice here. My boss just asked me when I started working with the Times!)

I mentioned in my post that, combined with Google forms, turning surveys in to ‘geotagged’ surveys is pretty darn easy.

As reports

“The Times has a long history of commissioning opinion polls,” wrote Tom Whitwell, Communities Editor, Times Online, about the origin of the survey.

“These are scientifically rigorous, using a carefully selected panel of maybe 1,000 people. At Times Online, we can do things very differently. We can throw out questions to our readers and capture their mood quickly, cheaply and easily.

He admits the online poll isn’t that rigorous but it offers a cheap and easy way to add depth to your content.

Great stuff and it gives me a great example to show the students.