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How to prepare for an NCTJ journalism course

Patricia Cruz



You’ve been accepted onto your dream journalism course and the start date is looming… so what do you do next? Here are our top tips on how to prepare for an NCTJ journalism course.

Read, watch and listen to as much journalism as you can

This may seem obvious, but it’s so important you consume and appreciate a wide variety of journalism.

Not only will keeping up with the news help you stay informed, it will also show you the dos and don’ts of how to report stories.

deputy managing editor Graham Dudman says: “You’re about to take your first steps into the world of journalism so spend as much time as possible experiencing journalism by reading, watching and listening to the news.

“You should try to read as many news stories as possible every day from a newspaper or news website and watch or listen to at least one full news bulletin from either the BBC, ITN or Sky News. Scrolling through your Twitter echo-chamber does not count as digesting the news!   

“Pay attention to how different types of stories are covered and how much detail is or is not included. Know a little about a lot of what’s going on in your area, the UK and the world.”

Practise your writing

Flex those wrist muscles and practise writing, especially if you haven’t written in a while.

You could write a blog, pitch ideas to publications or even just write your own diary.

Practise writing any way you can to keep your spelling and grammar to a good standard – because once you start your course, you’ll realise just how important accuracy is!

GIF of a cat typing really fast

Develop your strengths

One of the best things about being a journalist is that you can draw on many weird and wonderful talents you’ve developed through your life.

Can you speak a different language? This is an incredible skill for a journalist to have, so try to keep it up – you can’t underestimate how much this may help your career in the future.

Are you a massive gaming fan? Put your knowledge to good use by writing reviews of your favourite games and consider how you can find opportunities to cover what you’re passionate about during your time on the course.

Do you have an artistic flair? Think about how you could use your illustration or graphics skills to accompany your journalism – multimedia skills are exactly what editors are looking for in 2021.

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Develop your weaknesses

Sometimes it’s not only important to think about your strengths, but also your weaknesses.

Research the course you are going to start and look at the modules on offer. Are there any you think you’re going to struggle with? If so, think about how you can develop those skills and prepare questions for your tutors that will help you get started.

You’re doing the course to learn, so it’s okay not to be an expert in everything from the start.

Explore social media

Journalism isn’t all newspapers and TV news… social media plays a huge part as well.

Start following journalists, publications and broadcasters on social media to see how they adapt stories for those platforms.

Twitter is where most professional journalists can be found, so can be an invaluable networking tool.

However, you should also explore other platforms – there is a wealth of quality journalism on Instagram and TikTok too!

Subscribe to newsletters

Subscribing to journalism newsletters is a great way to gain insight into the industry.

Job opportunity newsletters can also give you a good idea of the kind of jobs out there and the skills and qualifications they’re looking for.

You can read our blog on the best journalism newsletters here.

Be prepared to go out of your comfort zone

When thinking about starting your journalism course, you might feel overwhelmed and nervous. That’s perfectly normal but just remember everyone will be in the same boat.

Be prepared to push yourself and go out your comfort zone because that is how you will make the most of your NCTJ training before finding a journalism job.

At we don’t call you students, we call you trainees, because we treat you like journalists from day one.

Don’t worry

Now you know how to prepare for an NCTJ course, try not to worry and make sure you take some time to relax before the course starts.

You will learn so much on your course and by the end you will leave with the skills, qualification and confidence to walk into any journalism job.

You will also meet knowledgeable and supportive tutors, network with inspiring journalists, and you might even make friends for life.

Above all else, remember why you’re doing it in the first place and let your love for journalism shine!

If you want to be a journalist, an NCTJ course is the best way to kickstart your career. Find out more about the NCTJ qualification and how you can get one here.

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Article: Trust and Journalistic Transparency Online

Patricia Cruz



The study “Trust and Journalistic Transparency Online” by Michael Koliska from Georgetown University experimented on news consumers’ trust as brought on by transparency, and further, in the second experiment, explored the reasons for the findings in the first.

Transparency in journalism is defined as opening up the journalistic processes (production, decision making) to outsiders, i.e. making journalism more transparent. Karlsson (2010, 2020) further divides transparency into disclosure, participatory, and ambient transparency. 

Defining trust, on the other hand, in journalism has been tricky, as it has been associated with credibility. Kohring and Matthes (2007) define the four elements of trust: 1. trust in topic selectivity; 2. trust in fact selectivity; 3. trust in accuracy of descriptions, and 4. trust in journalistic assessment. 

This study recruited its participants from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) platform. There were a total of 1092 participants. They were presented with a news story about nanoparticles – a topic that was unfamiliar to most and therefore had a low risk of partisan opinions. The article was presented in six different webpages that had differing transparency items in them.

There were 11 different trust items in the first experiment. Based on the results, the hypotheses were rejected. They were H1: A a) production transparency news item and a b) producer transparency news item will be trusted more than a non-transparent item. H2: A full transparency (both production and producer transparency) news item will be trusted more than a) a non-transparent article, b) a production transparency article, and c) a producer transparency article. And H3a: A full transparency news item will be trusted more than a full transparent article that includes biased information about the producer. H3b: A producer transparency news item with neutral personal information will be trusted more than a producer transparency article with biased information.

Nevertheless, the participants agreed that the journalist was trustworthy and that they sometimes trusted the news media. On results, it was speculated that the participants did not recognize the transparency features as cognitive heuristics and did not interact much with the transparency items. 

The second experiment was similar. There were a total of 379 participants, who were not the same as in the first one. They were assigned to read the same article as in the first about nanoparticles, placed again on five different webpages with varying transparency features.  

Further on, the participants were asked to recall the transparency features (such as hyperlinks, author bio, editorial explanations etc.) and to recall specific information from the article and the transparency features. 

The participants recalled items such as the photo (84% of the ones assigned to the webpage with a photo) only 34% could correctly identify the journalist. Similarly, 53% of those who had seen an editorial explanation recalled it, but only 26% could recall a detail from it. Participants also had trouble recalling the individual transparency features they were exposed to.

It was noted that the participants had better recall on items that were part of the actual story than the ‘digitally outsourced’ transparency items. It is possible that this information is not adequately processed or they failed to acknowledge the utility of this information. 

In conclusion, it still remains unclear how the link between transparency and audience’s trust is created. The question remains on whether news consumers recognize transparency features as markers of journalistic quality.

The article “Trust and Journalistic Transparency Online” by Michael Koliska is in Journalism Studies. (open access). 

Picture: scrabble tiles spelling trust by Ronda Dorsey.

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News ideology and media storms in France and Israel

Patricia Cruz



The article “What Happens in the Eye of the Storm? News Ideology During Media Storms” by Doron Shultziner from Hadassah Academic College looked at the nexus of news ideology and media storms using two media storms to analyze the topic: the Yellow Vests Movement (2018) in France and the Occupy Movement (2011) in Israel.

Media storms are defined as events or topics that take up a substantial part of the coverage for a period of time. They typically peak after few weeks in the beginning and then begin to fade. They have been studied widely with various terms being applied to them like “media event” or “media hypes”.

In the past 15 years, there has been an increase in the amount of studies on media ideology. Measured against the hypothetical gold standard of pure objectivity, media bias can be seen when coverage varies from source to another in different weighings and so on, with professional considerations having been overtaken by ideological ones.

The ideology is often seen in framing – as in this case, left-wing media tends to frame the protests positively and right-wing negatively. This was one of the topics in this study.
There were two data sets for the study: the Israeli one and the French one. The Israeli dataset consisted of coverage from Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel Hayom, Maariv, Haaretz, Makor Rishon (a national-religious newspaper), and Yated Neeman (an ultra-religious newspaper). Israel Hayom, Makor Rishon, and Yated Neeman are right-wing, the rest are left wing.

The French dataset consisted of coverage from Le Figaro, Le Monde, Libération, and L’Obs – listed here from right to left ideologically. The articles from both datasets were coded either positive, negative, or neutral based on several criteria.

The results show that media storms are a multi-media phenomenon, affecting a number of newspapers at once. The findings also demonstrate a media bias: if professional considerations were the only thing that mattered, the coverage in left- and right-wing media would have resembled each other.

Instead, there was a trend of negative coverage in right-wing media and positive in left – and what is more, the lines of coverage moved to opposite directions, showing increased polarization. There were differences between the storms: in the Israel case the newspapers chose their sides early and there was no significant move, but in France the lines diverged as the media storm went on.

News ideology also operated through production bias mechanisms, such as sizing of articles or their placement in the newspaper (front page or somewhere else). Due to the differences of the two cases, the hypotheses regarding the decline stage of the storm were hard to assess.

The author notes that the study has implications for future research. It proposes that media storms may be high-risk events that even challenge the ideology and interests of the news organizations. As important, politically charged events become media storms, they may become political storms instead.

The article “What Happens in the Eye of the Storm? News Ideology During Media Storms” by Doron Shultziner is in International Journal of Communication. (free access).

Picture: Storm Approaching by Johannes Plenio @jplenio.
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Covering women’s sport: My sports journalism career highlights

Patricia Cruz



There has never been a better time to work in women’s sport and for early-career sports reporters, the opportunities are endless.

Here, multimedia sports reporter Milly McEvoy shares how she has covered everything from the Olympics and Paralympics to international women’s cricket and football tournaments, only a year after finishing her sports journalism course.

In June 2021, fresh off finishing my Multimedia Sports Journalism qualification with in Manchester, I made the move down to London to join Sportsbeat as a reporter.

It feels like a lifetime ago, but what has come in between also feels like a blur – it has involved international rugby and football, the British Athletics Championships and domestic cricket and netball (and lots more) in person. 

I have also covered the Summer Olympics and Paralympics, Wimbledon, the Commonwealth Games, remotely and I have had the opportunity to interview sportspeople involved from the grassroots to the top of the game. 

On top of all that, I spent two months covering the Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand. 

As I came to the end of my history degree in 2020, I already knew I wanted to be a sports journalist, but I started thinking about what form that would take. 

I quickly settled on women’s sport. 

I had always kept an eye on women’s sport, and proudly say the first sporting event I ever attended was a Women’s Euros football match in 2005, but my interest in sport came from what was easily available – and even two years ago most women’s sport wasn’t. 

2020 was a slippery slope to full-on obsession including listening to the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup final on 8 March in the early morning on the radio. 

Even across the airwaves, the sound of 86,174 people packing into the MCG showed to me that there was plenty of appetite for women’s sport, people just need to be able to see it – and read about it. 

Fast forward two years and Australia were winning another World Cup, but this time, I was there to see it with my own eyes before heading to the press conference to speak with captain Meg Lanning. 

What had led to that point at around 9pm on 3 April 2022 was two months covering one of the most exciting tournaments cricket has ever seen, and I’m luckily not yet jaded enough to have cursed having to rewrite my match reports as momentum swung wildly in several games. 

I learnt so much from covering that World Cup producing over 120 previews, reports, reaction pieces and features, but my favourite one was the last thing I did in Aotearoa, speaking with a slightly hungover Grace Harris the day after she had won the World Cup. 

Having returned to the UK, I enjoyed a full circle moment in July as I covered the Women’s Euros, and just like the 2020 T20 World Cup, I watched from afar as 87,192 fans cheered the home team to victory. 

Except, this time I was writing the match report for the Lionesses and I couldn’t get into the Wembley press box because there were so many people eager to cover women’s sports. 

It feels like England’s win will be a turning point for women’s sport, one that is long overdue, and I am excited to be part of what is to come and grateful and proud to have been a small part of what has already been. 

You can find out more about our multimedia sports journalism course here.

For a taster of our award-winning journalism training, sign up for one of our free workshops here.

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