Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Norwegian Getaway in Hampshire

LATEST addition to the Southampton waterfront is the cruise ship Norwegian Getaway which docked this morning for the first time in the UK.
It’s not huge by cruise ship standards, coming in at number 9 in the big ship league table, but it did cut a dash in the watery wintery sunshine.
Some facts and figures below – 27 ‘dining options’! – courtesy of Maritime Matters

145,655 GT
Length overall
325.70 m
Moulded breadth
39.7 m
Number of decks
8.30 m
Engine output
62,400 kW 
Propulsion power
35,000 kW
21.5 kn
Number of passengers
Number of passenger cabins
Number of outside cabins
(including suites)
Number of inside cabins
Number of theatre seats
Number of dining options
Total weight of applied paint
300 t
Total length of laid cables
2,154 km
Total length of laid pipes
400 km

From Ambridge to Lymington - where obituaries are alive and well

AS WE all know, Jack Woolley – aka Mr Peggy Archer that was – has died.
Talk of Ambridge on Thursday was his obit on page 36 of the Borchester Echo (60p from all good newsagents). It was presented complete with a nice picture of Peggy – and presumably Jack – although the write up did make him “sound like Simon Cowell” according to Emma Grundy (@EmeraldMTuesday)
Good to hear the Echo still tackling obits with gusto, but page 36 did sound a bit far back in the book. Far better follow the lead of my local paper, the Lymington Times, which this week fills an oversized broadsheet page with obits - on page 6.
It’s no design award winner, but all the recently deceased have a lengthy write-up, picture and headline including their name and description of their life. ‘Bob Gardam (81) was leading television sports broadcaster’ reads the top story about a man who was well known to generations of TV sports journalists.
I feel lucky to have written obits from Halstead (Essex) to Port of Spain (Trinidad & Tobago) and contributed to a lasting memory of someone’s life. When one tearful widow came into the Halstead Advertiser (RIP itself) office to point out that we (I) had got some of the facts wrong it taught me more about ‘check, check and check again’ than anything before or since.
I’m pretty sure obit writing is not actively taught anywhere and many local papers no longer bother at all. But what a superb skill to learn and what a service to readers.
When my turn comes, if I can’t be in Borsetshire (too expensive, I fear) I hope I’ll still be here in the New Forest and can be squeezed on the corner of page 6 of the Lymington Times. A fitting send-off indeed.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

A job in journalism? Definitely...but it will take time, effort and money

THE most common question asked any newspaper editor is: "Can you help me/my son/daughter/friend get a job in journalism?"
Quick answer: "Yes, providing you are prepared to invest time, effort and money."
And the number one question asked me now I'm looking at things from an academic perspective is:  "Will I/my son/daughter get a job in journalism?"
And the answer? Just the same.
TIME means using your spare weeks  on work experience, volunteering, freelancing  and putting yourself about.
EFFORT is working hard on your course and doing the required added extras like blogging, social media and taking a leading role in course publications.
MONEY is spent on joining a reputable course, supporting yourself and ensuring you have enough time and space to give it the best shot without having to worry about working.
Currently there are nine 'Trainee and Junior Reporter' vacancies listed on HoldtheFrontPage, including two for papers on the patch I used to look after. A happy New Year to some lucky, or more probably hard-working, young people. But also evidence that the jobs - albeit in the beleaguered field of regional newspapers - are there.
Some insist on a National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) qualification.
"You must be NCTJ-qualified or equivalent."
"So if you are NCTJ-pre-entry qualified, with shorthand, some newspaper experience and a driving licence and car..."
"The successful candidate should have a qualification in journalism from an NCTJ-accredited course as well as 100wpm shorthand."
"A basic requirement is 100wpm shorthand and passes in all the preliminary examinations."
Some don't ask for NCTJ but stipulate: "You will be competent in shooting video and taking photos and you will demonstrate a clear understanding of the stories and information which will stimulate reaction on the internet."
But, as my Trini friends would say, it's a hard row to hoe. The latest league tables for 2012-13 just released by the NCTJ make salutary reading. Across all the courses they accredit 1244 students were enrolled, 914 (73.5 per cent) took all the core exams and 367 (29.5 %) passed with an A-C grade in the core exams and mastered 100 words per minute shorthand.
In the undergraduate university sector out of 452 students completing their courses  just 67 (14.8%) secured this 'gold standard' qualification. The best success rate by a huge margin is for the  independent full time courses (64.9%) like Press Association and News Associates who recruit postgrad students committed to not just a career in journalism, but also passing with full honours.
There are rumblings in the industry that the rigour - and expense - of the NCTJ may have had its day.  Rival qualifications could spring up and with the nationals, notably the Mail and Telegraph, running their own courses this is not that unlikely.
But for many editors an NCTJ  qualification is as much a statement of intent as it is of attainment. Are you prepared to get up every morning and face two hours of shorthand regardless of  sleep, hangover or worse? Can you learn all the law that you need to know and find it in the book come exam time?
If you can buy your way into a career by taking a short course that doesn't worry about the demands of shorthand or the trouble of a publication standard portfolio then we're all in trouble.
As I've explained before I am worried about the quality and motivation of people coming into journalism, now I'm concerned about both the impetus of  young people studying journalism the potential  value of qualifications moving forward.
*I am indebted to @jamster83 for tweeting the picture used above with the post "Saw a pigeon having a job interview earlier. I hope he got it." Couldn't resist the opportunity to run it again.