Journalism degrees can have their perks.
My NCTJ was good for a few reasons:
- It gave me the journalism training that I didn’t already have because of my degree
- The NCTJ is extremely recognised amongst employers, so it looked good for my CV and some jobs won’t allow you to apply without it
- I learnt things about my writing, feature writing and news writing, and expanded my portfolio
What it wasn’t so great for, was keeping up to date with modern times and the fact that many jobs, and a lot of experience is web-based. You can’t really get a job in journalism without being slightly savvy online, whether it be with WordPress, social media, SEO, content writing or knowing a bit about HTML. My course didn’t really do that and I hope by now the course has been updated to include more of the ‘new media’ ways of doing journalism. That’s not to say we didn’t cover online journalism, after all the course was called ‘Multimedia Journalism’ diploma, but it was more of a ‘There, we mentioned online journalism so we can tick that off the list.’ We had a series of three afternoon workshops on online journalism which covered, as I’ve mentioned before, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and SEO and Google maps (?) – but the very basics. It was by an external speaker and was very narrow-minded to newspapers. It didn’t go into depth about blogging, Twitter, and Facebook, and us all being quite social-media savvy anyway, we kind of knew a lot of what we were told, which was my thought process anyway.
After speaking to a web-based journalism lecturer recently (see the interview here), it made me realise how little I had learnt about this side of journalism, and the skills I have, have come more from me taking the time to blog and learn about WordPress, and tweeting socially, rather than being taught it.
I’m not trying to say my NCTJ was useless, not at all. In a very valid explanation, I studied and got a diploma in only five months because I was on the fast-track course. The course was rushed enough as it was trying to fit in all the content, adding in specialties would have been even harder, but I think this marks the difference between a journalism degree and an NCTJ. When you are studying a subject in depth for three years, you have the time, the tutors and the resources to be able to learn more narrowly-chosen modules and topics, and not just cover the basics. I think this is the first time, since I decided to study English rather than journalism, that I can see the benefits of the other side. I have never seen any disadvantages of my route of doing a degree in English and then my NCTJ, but realising that my journalism training had to be squashed into such a short period of time, it’s clear that there are topics I could’ve learnt more about had there been the time.
I’ve seen many posts, over Twitter, and even on this blog (“Journalism degrees – are they really worth it?”), that journalism degrees are a waste of time. But I think investing three years of your time on the subject, will definitely have its benefits.