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.”

Off-duty

“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.”

Advertisements




Leveson inquiry starts today – what kind of free Press do we want?

14 11 2011

By John Jenkins,  lecturer Brighton Journalist Works

What kind of a free Press do we want? A totally free Press left with its own self-governing body for standards of behaviour?

Or a Press without any restrictions other than the existing laws of libel?

Or a Press subject to government and legal censorship?

Think carefully before you give an opinion for this is not a black and white matter. There are huge benefits in having a totally free Press but there are also drawbacks.

There are also disastrous drawbacks in having a Press subjected to Government control and censorship.

With a censored Press you can end up like Stalinist Russia which had two government controlled newspapers: Izvestia and Pravda. These words meant truth and news. Hence the Muscovites used to joke: there is no news in the truth and there is no truth in the news.

Press lords like prostitutes
Stanley Baldwin, regarded by some as safe pair of hands as a Prime Minister and by others as a pusillanimous ditherer said that Press lords were like prostitutes – they wanted power without responsibility. He was referring in particular to those two newspaper titans of the day, Lord Northcliffe of the Daily Mail group and Lord Beaverbrook of the Daily Express. Both achieved more for Britain than Baldwin ever did.
Another wit used to proclaim:

You cannot hope to bribe or twist
Thank God, the British journalist,
But seeing what the man will do unbribed,
There’s no occasion to.

This debate has come about of course during the furore over phone tapping which led to the closure of the News of the World and huge payments made by Rupert Murdoch’s company, News International to alleged victims of the phone tapping.

Leveson inquiry
Now we have the Leveson inquiry which in due course will report to the Government. The good Lord Leveson has been listening to evidence from all quarters as he delves into the word of news.

I am left with the unmistakeable impression that this has nothing to do with whether or not we should have a free Press but a form of revenge from MPs who by and large were shown to be dishonest in the presentation of their expenses to Parliament..

In case you have forgotten the statistics let me remind you. Out of 646 Members of parliament only 50 minimised their expenses – and even one of those, the saintly Vince Cable, has just been fined for not completing his tax return correctly.

This was not petty cash we were talking about. Some of them invented fictitious mortgages which they expected you and me to pay for, another claimed for clearing his moat while another built a house on his pond for the ducks.

Yet another had to pay back £80,000 – others – but too few – were sent to jail.
 
Big stick
Since that day members of all parties have been looking for a big stick to beat the Press with.

The phone tapping gave them a great excuse because stupidly the News of the World used phone tapping to check on victims of crime.
They could have got this information – if necessary – from orthodox reporting methods.

And do not think that the News of the World was the only newspaper to employ these tactics.

Equally, newspapers have helped many an investigation where the police have been unable to trace criminals or solve crimes.

Smart phones
Modern technology has already made phone tapping out of date. If you own a smart phone you can buy at a reasonable price the kit to monitor anybody’s e mails. Dodgy politicians, errant husbands or wives and other miscreants can be easily monitored.

Not only does the march of IT progress make the phone tapping inquiry redundant, other advances in media platforms for citizen journalists mean the days of newspapers as we know them are numbered.

Soon we will have one tabloid paper – call it the Sun-Mirror: one middle of the road paper – call it the Mail-Express and one heavyweight paper, call it The Times Telegraph.

It is worth quoting some of the evidence given by leading journalists to the Leveson inquiry.

The most trenchant came from Kelvin MacKenzie, a former successful editor of the Sun and now a columnist on the Daily Mail.

Arse kissing or arse kicking
In typical fashion he cast doubts on Leveson to produce anything worthwhile and points out that politicians behaviour to Press lords varies from arse kissing to arse kicking, depending on when they want their support. That, in my experience is a pretty fair summing up.

Of course, super injunctions and the courts are being wrongly used to prevent the truth coming out in the public domain. If some successful sportsman is held up as a shining light to our young people and endorses products from football boots to hair restorer I think it is a matter of public interest to correct the image if he is a lying, cheating, adulterous, tax dodging, drug taking imbecile.

Not that any of our shining young men qualify in all categories.

And if Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Andrew Marr and Jeremy Clarkson want to appear whiter than white they must mend their ways, admit they are human and not hide behind the law. Marr and Clarkson have admitted their errors.

The associate editor of the Sun – and a shrewd political commentator, — Trevor Kavanagh – points out that but for the Free Press in the United States Dominic Strauss Khan’s conduct, widely known among the chattering classes in Paris was deemed under French law to be of no concern to the people who were going to be asked to elect him President.

Kavanagh makes the reasonable point that if people are going to persuade us to part with our cash or give them our votes we should know something about their characters.

Would we have wanted to have John Stonehouse, Jeremy Thorpe or John Profumo in power if we had known what they were really like?

Freedom of information
Alan Rushbridger of the Guardian claimed to Leveson that the laws in Britain actually hindered investigative reporting and pointed out that in a world league table we came in joint 28th place when it came to freedom of information.

Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail put things in perspective. He roundly condemned phone tapping but pointed out:

No British cities were looted, nobody died, and no banks were in danger of collapsing and elected politicians continued to steal from the public. And moreover the nation did not go to war.

And yet the Leveson inquiry has wider powers than any inquiry into these problems.

Rank smell of hypocrisy
He sums up neatly:

Am I alone in detecting the rank smell of hypocrisy and revenge in the political class’s current moral indignation over a British Press that dared to expose their greed and corruption?

Well what do you think?

Talking of greed and corruption did you read about the Pakistani cricketers?

After the jury were out for 17 hours at Southwark Crown court in London they were found guilty of a match-fixing plot in a Test match against England and jailed.

Now, cricket authorities for years have suspected something like this – ever since the disgraced South African captain Hansie Cronje was implicated. So have the police

There were also some very strange happenings concerning a cricket tournament in the Middle East.

Suddenly the term it’s not cricket seem to foreshadow something much more sinister than a batsman refusing to walk after being given out.

The trouble stemmed from the huge illegal betting on the Asian sub continent.

Investigative journalism
Whether the cricket authorities were naïve in ignoring the implications, or whether they did not want publicity to harm potential television rights we shall never know, but the whole affair would have gone on – again and again – and unpunished, had it not been for some clever investigative reporting by a Sunday newspaper. That newspaper was the News of the World.

As we cannot trust our MPs or international cricketers I think we should be very careful of muzzling the Press.





Why I’m ashamed to admit I’m a journalist – says BJW lecturer

11 07 2011

John Jenkins, legend of Fleet Street reveals his own murky past and reveals which papers may close next.

When the announcement came that this weekend was to see the last edition of the News of the World I was not surprised but very sad.
The scandalous revelations concerning phone hacking into private telephone conversations was too serious to be ignored.

For the first time in something like 50 years connected with the media I feel ashamed to admit that I am a journalist and I have been a reporter and an executive on both tabloid and broadsheet newspapers.

Why Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International did not resign or was not sacked in the early days of these revelations I cannot understand.

Brooks defence – or Rebekah Wade as she was when editor of the News of the World, was that she didn’t know that it was happening. I find that totally unconvincing.

The News of the World was a weekly paper, it came out once every seven days. There is plenty of time for an editor to find out who is providing stories and where they come from. If she truly didn’t know then she must have been the most incompetent national newspaper editor of all time.

I once worked for a Sunday newspaper – the Sunday Express under the editor John Junor when it sold more than 4 million each day. Junor read every line that went into that paper whether it was written by a lowly reporter, a provincial correspondent, an international news agency or a specially commissioned politician.

He read it in raw copy, on page proofs and on the page. Nothing escaped his eyes. Woe betide anybody who got something wrong or stepped beyond the bounds of decent behaviour. Instant dismissal was a fact of life. He was not a popular man among his staff.

But popularity is not a requisite for a good editor. When he gave an instruction it was certainly not a subject for debate. But his judgement of events and people was legendary.

My first editor, on the Dorset County Chronicle in its heyday was Heber Bruce, a Quaker and a man of great integrity…I was once offered money to keep a court case out of the paper. When I told him he took my copy and elevated it from a two paragraph filler to an inside page lead.

The tragedy of the N o W affair is not that they exposed people like randy footballers and actors – or cheating and lying politicians – but that they stepped into the blameless lives of ordinary people, some beset by grief.

At a stroke this has undone much of the good which newspapers do to preserve our democracy and given politicians a big stick to beat the Press and to step even closer to laws of privacy which will hide their own wrongdoings.

To have seen John Prescott and Max Clifford and Hugh Grant on screen, posing as white knights denouncing newspapers and posing as arbiters of good taste stuck in the craw.

And Fords, Virgin and other advertisers have set a dangerous example in withdrawing their advertising. Does this mean we are now to have newspapers subject to censorship by advertisers?

So if Ford motor company produce a car which a motoring correspondent describes as a bag of nails will they use that s a reason not to advertise?

There is also a great attempt to paint Rupert Murdoch as some kind of ogre who leads poor naïve politicians astray and Labour politicians are quick to say he has Cameron in his pocket.

Press Lords have always courted politicians just as politicians have courted them. He was good old Roop to left wingers when the Sun supported Tony Blair and the Labour Party, having been weaned away from Margaret Thatcher.

But when his newspapers switched allegiance he became a devil with horns.

And it’s often forgotten that while Murdoch’s News International publishes the N o W and the Sun, he also publishes the Times and the Sunday Times.

The fact that the two sober papers sell around 1.5million copies with each publication while the other two were the biggest sellers daily and on Sunday says more about Britain than it does about Murdoch.

It also did not come as a surprise to me to learn that policemen had been paid by the News of the World.

In my days as a reporter in London’s East End I knew that some officers were given a drink by national newspapers – in the jargon of the time that translated into – anything from £25 to £1,000 or a holiday with some excellent shooting.

And in the days before mobile phones it was not unknown for one agency in London to monitor police radios in order to be first on a crime scene.

As far as I was concerned the offer came the other way. A Detective Inspector in the East End offered me money for information which might help his team to feel a few collars. We settled amicably for an arrangement which meant that he gave me useful background while I tipped him off about anything I discovered about crime. It was all done over the odd civilised pint or two. Neither of us ever broke a confidence.

Now you have the ridiculous situation of police spokesmen who give out a statement which is usually too late and useless.

Conversely we now have police officers hogging the cameras at the end of a court case giving their views on the crime. This may be good for their egos and promotion but I would prefer such reporting to be concentrated on the judge’s remarks.

Now which will be the next newspaper to close? Unfortunately it could be the Observer, which has never been a happy bedfellow of the Guardian. It was always a better newspaper than its daily partner: it rang with authority whether n politics, defence, the arts or sport and it had the guts to support the abolition of hanging before most politicians jumped on the bandwagon.

Recently it has been starved of resources as the Guardian, which once survived on the back of the Manchester Evening News, has found its losses mounting.

It will not be many years – or maybe months – before we have one tabloid newspaper , probably the Sun-Mirror, and one mid range paper: the Mail/Express and one decent quality journal: the Telegraph/Times.

Unfortunately television and radio will not take the place of the missing titles.





Top journalist visits Brighton Journalist Works

6 03 2011

The ex night editor of the Daily Telegraph visited Brighton Journalist Works. Student Josh Jones was impressed and reflected in his blogs: http://allwriteandnoplay.blogspot.com/2011/03/john-jenkins-what-guy_04.html

“A degree in English is of no use…”

This week my journalist colleagues and I had a lecture by John Jenkins on the best way to earn money when writing feature pieces.

A Jayjay I can only wish to emulate

Everyone was left feeling inspired. One of my class mates even said afterwards that she was “in awe” of the former editor, reporter, millionaire (to name but a few of his previous titles.)

“The difference between an amateur writer and a professional is marketing.”

A great quote to perfectly sum up what he was trying to say. You may not have the best writing talent in the world but if you are persistent, determined and know how to sell yourself – then you will go far.

His mantra will be recited as a quiet murmur from the mouths of future journalists, squinting at a flickering monitor on deadline day –  and I, whenever I write a piece in the future, will do well to remember the journalist’s ABC: Accuracy, Brevity and Clarity.

He has the appearance of a kindly grandfather (maybe helped by being a West Ham fan like mine) but the air of importance emanates from his sweater-vest.

Mr Jenkins (a personal reason why I like him) is also a short story writer, confessing that he once had six bank accounts that were under the names of his various pseudonyms so he could dodge the tax man.

The four main points that will stick with me, should I decide to try my hand at freelancing, are to ask the following questions:

  • How many words would you like me to write?
  • When is the deadline?
  • Which form would you like it in?
  • How much dolla will you be paying me?
  • It pays to be a mercenary, quite literally.

He is very well read and has a passion for intros, which he collects. The three best intro styles to use in news writing, when enticing a reader are: The man who, the superlative and the eternal truth.

According to Mr.Jenkins I should be spending 75% of my time concentrating on the intro and final par of anything I write. If that is taken as read then I will be going to bed very late tonight, I keep getting distracted by the Cricket World Cup highlights.

“Do not choose what you write with a splatter gun, imagine you are a sniper.”

When selling a piece of work you should try to sell it at least three times. Perhaps one of the most inspiring anecdotes Mr Jenkins told the class was about a rookie hack who managed to fund his way around America through being flexible, subtly changing the angle of a story he wrote so that he could sell it on to various publications… meaning more wonga!

Images are important too, never accept anything less than  300 dpi.

In a lesson where I have learnt so much, it is hard to produce a report detailing all the points he covered. He came across as a stern yet forgiving character, always willing to give you the chance you deserve (but maybe for a price of course!)

Finally, from one Jayjay to another, I would like to share his thoughts with regards to getting ahead in journalism:

“A degree in English is of no use. In today’s age it would be great to get a degree in low-cunning and a Masters in duplicity.”

John Jenkins, the man who is proud to have bought Bobby Moore his first brown ale, I thank you.

*Also, a big thank you to Emma Nicklin for subbing this for me. She is sure to be a fantastic journalist herself. (Safe, mate)





What you should know about ‘Freedom of Information’

10 05 2010
BBC drama

Brian Cox as the House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin in the BBC drama On Expenses

By John Jenkins, former night editor at the Daily Telegraph

The Freedom of Information Act is the most important piece of legislation to affect journalism for fifty years. It enables journalists to exploit legally one of the most important definitions of news ever uttered: the ability to tell people what officials do not want them to know.

You can read up the Act and learn it off by heart and obtain a 100 per cent mark in any future examination. And that will be useless to you.

Just as you could learn the Highway Code alongside a manual for a Bentley Mulsanne and not have a clue how to drive.

If you can watch a superb BBC dramatised version of the revelations surrounding MPs’ expenses written by Tony Saint, you will know the conditions in which this Act changed the shabby face of British politics.

Instead of hiding behind a novel’s standard disclaimer, the programme, about the heroic tenacity of Heather Brooke to break the code of secrecy, goes out of its way to confirm that much of its content is actual historical reporting.

It was first shown on BBC in February 2010 and repeated two days after the general election on May 8th.

Heather Brooke

Heather Brooke

You should also buy Heather Brooke’s book: The Right to Know. If you buy it online make sure you get the latest edition.

Within a short time of the introduction of the FoI by the Labour government  in 2005 politicians were saying it was the worst thing that Tony Blair had done.

A vicious campaign to water it down began but the expenses explosions which rocked Westminster has made every MP in the land wary of trying to emasculate this important Act.

Having digested as much as you can about the Act and highlighting those parts which are vital or unclear,  it is then time  to listen  to one of the handful of master practitioners. Such a man is Matt Davis, renowned by the news desks of national newspapers as a reporter who digs gold out of mountains of statistics and has a forensic cross examiner’s skill at putting questions.

Over the past years I must have listened to more than 100 people lecturing on various aspects of journalism and creative writing.  Some are good, some are hopeless and a very, very few are brilliant. Davis is in the latter category.

So much so, that when I came to write what I hope will be the best and most up to date book on the black art I went to TheJournalistWorks in Brighton, where Davis lectures on the fast track course for graduates, and asked permission to sit in.

In two hours what I suspected was right was confirmed. What I found difficult to understand was made crystal. What I had seen – and experienced as hurdles – were destroyed. I left with a dozen ideas for stories churning through my mind.

Even better, I revised my lectures on how to get to the front of the queue in the quest for a job.

Any job on a reasonable publication will attract a shoal of applicants.  The editor will whittle them down to five or six. Frequently there will not be a whisker, or should I say an eyelash between them – first- class exam results, pleasant appearance, articulate, bright eyed and ambitious.

So who gets the job?  Simple. The one who displays most energy and initiative.

Hence my advice has always been – for the interview take a story in with you for that publication. Make sure it is topical, accurate and relevant to the publication. Now I have added a rider to that advice – and if you take in a story which is the result of a Freeedom of Information inquiry, which is topical, controversial and well researched you can knock your name off the unemployment statistics.

The stark fact is that not every working  reporter understands or can handle FoI inquiries. And whisper it: some editors are not experts on the procedure. I say that as a man who was once a member and regional secretary of the Guild of British Newspaper editors.

Here then, is the gospel according to Matt Davis and Heather Brooke.

Study this website: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com

Phrase you questions with care

Be as specific as you can about dates and reports

When necessary ask for a comparison – e.g. number of unsolved murders in Dorset over a five-year period

Research who is best to answer the information

Speak softly and politely in any phone call

Often the suspicion that you will follow up with an official FoI request will be enough to obtain the information

If your request is refused the source must explain why

Your request must be answered within 20 working days (about a month)

If the source says they do not have the information ask them who has

Never take no for an answer

Don’t waste your time pursuing information which is already available

Use full names: e.g. British Broadcasting Corporation, not BBC.

There is a list of government departments and executive agencies listed by the Cabinet Office which is available to you

You do not have to reveal that you are a journalist

You have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner against a refusal.

Now beware the standard ploys to put you off.

The data is not available…the Data Protection Act…a matter which is sub judice…a hint to local reporters that you will not get any future co-operation if you persist…a matter of national security…the cost of providing the facts is prohibitive..the information is already in the public domain…the facts are so delayed that your expected story becomes stale.

There is also the ploy of submerging you with minutes and reports which will make your heart sink when you contemplate the amount of work required to pan the gold from the dross.

Don’t give up. You may find an even better story than the one you originally envisaged and you can always return with more precise supplementary questions.





Fleet Street legend shares his views on news

11 03 2010

John Jenkins, former night editor at the Daily Telegraph, visited the office of Brighton Journalist Works yesterday. Catherine Jones, a student on the course, wrote this account.

It turns out that this fast track journalism course really is intense and I’ve had this week, what I like to call, the 8th week slump. There’s been tears, tantrums, panicking and a general doubt over my journalism ability.

Then, just as I received yet another email turning me down for work experience, John Jenkins arrived to give us a ‘headline masterclass’. But this masterclass was so much more than that, John talked us through his, frankly, legendary career with wit and energy and I could still see the wide eyed, eager, young reporter he once was.

He asked us one by one why we were here and what we had been doing giving us each a unique selling point which most of us would have never realised. From golf writers and property correspondents to autobiographical acting audition features, new doors suddenly opened and John was giving us the confidence to walk through them.

(Read more on Catherine Jones’ blog)