Journo School: Brighton Journalist Works

The offices of The Argus and Brighton Journalist Works in snowy January

Well that’s it then, four months of journalism training has come to an end. Better find a job I suppose.

I’m not normally one for blogging, but I know that when I was thinking about doing Brighton Journalist Works‘ NCTJ Diploma in Journalism I read a few accounts from past students that helped me make my mind up. So I’m paying it forward.

First off, I would emphatically say do it. I should have done it a lot sooner than I did. If you want to be a journalist but do not have an NCTJ qualification, it is going to be tough getting started. Unless, as one poster on our course notice board said, your surname is Coren.

Having the NCTJ diploma proves that you have an understanding of how to research, construct and write a news story. It proves that you can make sure it is legally safe. It might even prove that you know your en dash from your em dash. Actually, it tells a potential employer a lot of things about you, things that I had not even considered before I began in January.

Shorthand books
All filled with shorthand practice, front to back and back to front. And yes, there are two number 7’s there

So what did I want to know before I started? Well, the idea of trying to learn shorthand to a level of 100 words-per-minute in four months scared the bejesus out of me before the course began. But it’s possible. You have to practice every day but it is possible. I now have a mildly deformed middle right-hand finger from practising so much.

You’ll probably have to sacrifice having a busy social life for a few months too. Sure there are some people who can revise for a Media Law exam while hungover or sleep deprived but I’m not one of them. This isn’t to say you can’t go out and enjoy everything Brighton has to offer, but bear in mind this is a Monday to Friday, 9-5 course and you have work to do at weekends too.

That said, the ‘accelerated’ 4-month design of the course was one of its most appealing elements to me. I didn’t have much in savings and so couldn’t afford to be a student again for too long. So it won hands down on that basis compared to the MA in Journalism offered by City University in London, for which I would have had to sell most of my internal organs and at least one of my arms.

Shorthand, Reporting, Media Law & Court Reporting, Production and Essential Public Affairs are the five modules, and each is very different which keeps your weekly schedule varied. I can honestly say I enjoyed them all, even when we did local government finance in Public Affairs.

The teachers on the course are all experts in their field and there are regular guest speakers and guest tutors. We had the Fleet Street Fox come in to talk to us, about a week before she revealed her real identity. Who knew Johann Hari had donned a wig and a dress to reinvent himself after his journalistic downfall?*

(*This might not be true)

What you learn in the class lessons is reinforced with some eye-opening field trips, such as our outing to Lewes Crown Court, or to an inquest hearing in Worthing.

While on the course, you are given a patch of Brighton to report on for The Argus, whose offices are in the same building as Brighton Journalist Works. That story could then end up in The Argus newspaper, or on the Argus website, where the mentally unhinged can comment on it and blame all the ills of the world on the local Green Party council.

I guess the real litmus-test of whether the last four months of my life have been well-spent will be whether I now get the kind of job I want. But even if that takes longer than expected, the NCTJ-accreditation is something that is now going to be with me for the rest of my life. So in the long-term, I feel the last four months were spent in exactly the right way.  In the short-term, if anyone spots a job as an international film journalist and restaurant critic, then give me a shout will you?

A course that ran from January to the end of April did not provide a great window of opportunity for beach trips

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