What is it like to study on an NCTJ Fast-track Diploma in Journalism course at Brighton Journalist Works?

31 07 2012

Students are encouraged to blog on the Brighton Journalist Works course and two who started their NCTJ course in April 2012, shared their experiences.

Here we follow Kayleigh Tanner and John Herring progress on their course via their blogs, with the most recent entries first.

John Herring

John Herring

Kayleigh Tanner

Kayleigh Tanner

Both Kayleigh and John are on target to achieve the gold standard for their NCTJ course.

In the end 11 out of 12 students on the course passed their 100wpm shorthand and all achieved a minimum of 80wpm.  Exam results in the other subjects were similarly brilliant – everyone passed Essential Media Law at grade C or above, 11 out of 12 passed Essential Public Affairs and Crime Reporting, at gold standard and 10 out of 12 got gold at Reporting.

A reflection: The end of an NCTJ era:

“I have every faith that every single one of my coursemates will make a raging success of their journalist careers.”

Class of April 2012:

“At the start of the course many of us, myself included, thought reaching 100 words a minute was an impossible task; requiring assembling a team of mighty heroes, legendary weapons and a stash of energy drinks and doughnuts to tackle this Herculean task.

“We have a lot to thank Roxanne for. Not only for getting us to respectable speed in shorthand, but for being able to sleep easy knowing Caroline got an eye test – something she tells me she revised hard for – and as a result, now has to wear glasses.”

The point where I’m in denial about the end of my course

“I’m going to miss everyone terribly. And the course. Such good tutors, such good content, such good coursemates. I’ve never been so reluctant to leave an educational establishment. Shall I hide in the tea room?”

It’s the final humpday

“It’s pretty devastating, leaving a course which has inspired me and which I’ve actually thoroughly enjoyed, to return to something which leaves me feeling so… flat.”

The end is nigh

“I feel like the NCTJ is infinitely more worthwhile than my degree, and I feel like I’ve learnt so much more in the 12 weeks I’ve been learning to become a journalist than the two years I’ve been regurgitating the academic papers of linguists.”

The momentous occasion where I passed 100wpm

“I doubted that I’d be able to get there, so it’s a huge weight off my shoulders. I practised an insane amount the day before those exams, so thank god it paid off. In my group, six of us passed the 100wpm after ten weeks! Surely we deserve a medal?”

Legal eagles, and other journalism exam matters

“Today has been a very exciting day at Brighton Journalist Works. We’ve received our provisional Media Law and Court Reporting results, and I got an A in Media Law and a B in Court Reporting (a true Christmas miracle, given how hideous that paper was).”

Prints Charming 

“The news today is that my first print story (hence the title) has made it into my local paper! (page 19 of  The Argus in Brighton, in case you were wondering). I have a byline and everything!”

Exams ahoy

“I passed my 60wpm shorthand exam! Hooray! This means that as long as I pass everything else (at whatever level), I’ll have passed my NCTJ. Again, hooray! Alas, I have to sit an 80wpm on Friday.”

Happy Humpday!

“I can’t comprehend how fast this course has gone! When I think about how much this year at uni dragged, this is just insanity. It’s one of the things I really like about this course; the fact it’s not eating into too much of my time. I’m really impatient, and I hate moving at a slow pace, so cramming it all into such a short space of time is ideal for me.”

Featuring John Jenkins

“We had a visit from feature writer John Jenkins today. We got to do one of my absolute favourite types of writing, namely a travel journalism article, and he gave us some interesting things to think about when writing features. He said we should let every holiday pay for itself, as we should be able to sell a feature we write about our trips two or three times to various publications. I have a few features I’ve already written that I’d like to pitch to some magazines, and I’m going to write a feature that popped up in my head forever ago and see if anyone would like it.”

Teeline Impressions: Life in the middle lane

“The only margin in my shorthand notebook is the margin of error. This currently stands at around 26.4%  and sits uncomfortably on my mental well being, like a Walrus atop a hedgehog.

“We’ve now moved away from 60 word a minute passages and moved into the middle of the road speed of 70-90 words a minute. I’m surprised at how much I’m able to take down at this speed. Its just a case of getting your brain in gear to bring the relevant outline instantly into your mind, only for it to be discarded a nanosecond later for another one.”


“I love the fact everyone gets on, on our course. There are only around 12 or 13 of us, so it’s quite a close-knit group.”

Tanner’s Top Tips for Telling Tales  

“Recently, I felt really stupid having to ask a man how he spelled his name… and that name was Chris. A shudder of embarrassment ran through me as I had to spell it back to him to make sure I’d got it right, but I would’ve felt a whole lot more ridiculous quoting him as Chris and having him phone me the day later telling me he was a Kris.”

Time’s a-tickin

“I ruddy bloody love Media Law; it’s really interesting, which I wasn’t expecting. To be honest there’s nothing I particularly dislike about the course.”

Teeline Impressions

“Teeline is said to be the easiest form of Shorthand to learn, which is good considering that you have to sit a 60 word a minute exam after 10 weeks of a 14 week course. But if this is the easiest to learn then the other forms must be like trying to ride a unicycle up Mount Everest.”

Vox pop, pop, pop

“Today we did some vox pops in town. Lots of people see the notepad and cross the road or speed up their walk to avoid you. My piece of advice for vox pops would be MAKE SURE YOUR PEN WORKS. I spent the entirety of the first vox pop carving the man’s answer into my notepad with a pen that WOULD NOT WRITE. I have the word ‘bad’ carved into my notepad over and over again.”

Learnin’ and… journin’

“Today we had a visit from Euan Ferguson, the chief deputy sub from Time Out magazine, who actually took a course at Brighton Journalist Works a few years ago. We had to do a write-up of his talk, and mine made it onto the BJW blog!) He also emailed our course administrator and named mine as one of his favourites, which was nice. I’d love to get some work experience with Time Out. Maybe that’s my next task?”

Dreams of here

“Oh great’ cried my inner monologue. ‘I have to write a review. Not just any review but an ART review. This internal outburst was brought about as part of our reporting sessions for Brighton Journalist Works (BJW).”

A learning curve

“I’m currently cooking up some stories to research for my patch, and I need to practise some shorthand tonight. Shorthand is so intimidating. 100wpm feels completely unattainable right now. I know it’s only day 2, but it’s still daunting.”

First steps

“I’ve recently started a course in journalism so I thought I’d introduce myself to the internet and blogging. I suppose that should actually be get to know the internet better; as we’ve been relatively good friends for a while now.”