INTERVIEW: Kayleigh Tanner on her time as a fast-track NCTJ student.

As part of the twitter for Jump4Journalism, I am always searching for journalism work experience opportunities on Twitter that people have spoken about. When I did it this morning, I came across Kayleigh Tanner’s blog. I like reading other people’s blogs, although I have not come across another blog about someone’s journalism journey before. I found it really interesting to read, even more so as I read that she had just finished her NCTJ fast-track course, what I am about to start! She also does Linguistics at university, which I did too, so in a way it shows someone else is going along the same track as me.

Even though I am going to write about the NCTJ each week (hopefully!), I thought it would be a good idea to talk to Kayleigh about her experiences on the NCTJ course, especially for those who read my blog wanting to know more about it. It’s first hand experience and advice on how to go about coping with such an intense course. So here it goes…

Thank you for agreeing to answer some questions 🙂 can you tell us a bit about yourself in terms of your journalism career?

I took a fast-track NCTJ course in April, which lasted for 14 weeks, and I’ve since passed all my exams with a gold standard, and am currently undertaking work experience and compiling my portfolio.

What first sparked your interest in journalism?

I’d wanted to be a journalist since I was about ten years old when we wrote some news reports in English at junior school, but I didn’t seriously consider it as a career option until I was a bit older. Everyone told me how difficult it was to break into journalism as it’s such a competitive industry, so I set the idea to one side until the Christmas holiday of my second year at uni, when I wasn’t sure whether my degree was really for me, and started researching alternative options, and stumbled across the Brighton Journalist Works course.

Can you tell us about your linguistics course at university – what interests you the most about it?

To be honest, taking a degree is probably my biggest regret – it’s not at all what I imagined it would be, and I’m really not sure how much it’ll benefit me now I have the NCTJ! That said, the most interesting part is probably the way certain sounds affect the way we think, which is actually what I’ll be doing my dissertation on. Linguistics might help me in journalism in a way, as it makes me really think about what I’m writing to avoid ambiguity, which is, of course, very important in journalism when you’re trying to communicate information as clearly and accurately as possible!

Now the NCTJ – you’ve just finished your fast-track course, well done! How did you find it when you began?

I loved it since day one! The whole thing was a blast from start to finish, quite honestly, and I really do miss it already! There were some daunting moments, such as the first Public Affairs lessons, as politics isn’t really my strong point and there’s a lot to take in, but once I got over the initial shock and stopped panicking I started to get more into the swing of things.

What was it like learning shorthand, and have you got any advice for those beginning it now?

I had my ups and downs with shorthand! I remember when I first bought the textbook, I flicked through it and thought ‘Oh god, I’m never going to understand this,’ but obviously it does all click into place. I found the theory pretty reasonable and easy to follow, but it’s the speed building which is the real killer! I have some blog posts about my shorthand experiences, but my main advice would be to get a good pen, and to almost zone out when you’re taking down shorthand. I find if I concentrated too much, I’d get too hung up on silly little things, and would end up missing the next chunk. Also, if you encounter an unfamiliar word, just take down the first couple of letters and write the full outline in the margin when you get a break.

(just in case you were interested!)

What were the more challenging aspects of the course and how did you deal with these?

You need a lot of patience to be able to deal with the endless past papers you’ll end up doing to prepare for the Reporting exam, and shorthand often feels a bit overwhelming, especially when the speeds start cranking up later in the course. For shorthand, I practised insane amounts at home. As long as you keep on top of the practice, you’ll be fine, but as soon as you take a day or two off, you can really feel the pressure racking up.

What did you enjoy most on the course?

Media Law, without a doubt! It might sound a bit dry, but it’s great fun and fascinating! Our tutor made it all really relevant and linked all the aspects of law to real life cases, which made it all really easy to remember. I love being able to watch the news or read a newspaper and understand the reasoning behind the information they have and haven’t included. We had a particularly fun activity where we were allocated celebrities that we had to be as horrible about as possible without breaking any laws!

Have you got any advice for those beginning a fast-track course – is it as intense as they say?

I personally found it pretty manageable – in fact, the hardest thing for me was the 9-5 days! We didn’t have much to do outside lessons, which was good, as we got a lot done in the day, and more work to do at the end of the day would have been a real stretch I think. The pace doesn’t feel too fast, as you work as a group for most activities, so there’s a lot of support, and you can’t go too far wrong, as everything is discussed, so I don’t think anyone ever felt like they were left to flounder.

What do you plan to do now that you have finished?

Once I’ve finished uni, I’m going to apply like mad for any journalism job I can find. I’m going to try to do some freelancing and write some pieces for my uni magazine over the year, and see if anyone will take some one-off pieces from me. I’m going to keep blogging to maintain my online presence, and keep up with any trends in online journalism so I don’t get left behind. I just really hope I can find a job at the end of all this!

What would be your ideal job in the journalism industry?

I’d love to end up as a magazine editor, but then so would a hell of a lot of other people. I have high aspirations but I’m also realistic about what I’m likely to achieve. If I couldn’t edit, I’d love to be a freelance magazine journalist, or a travel journalist. Or a food journalist! Imagine being paid to go travelling or to eat! Ideal, surely?

Thank you!

Follow Kayleigh’s blog here:

And twitter: @DailyKayleigh


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