Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Where to train in present day journalism- the first of a series of articles for the Journal by Tim Crook

Part One. The Centre for Journalism in Chatham at the University of Kent.

Many of our members are entitled to ask if we would have any reason to encourage our children to enter journalism today.

And if we did, how should they be educated, trained and made ready for a tough economic and to some extent hostile political environment?

The Cairncross Review reported an industry in significant decline.

Cairncross Review Report, February 2019.

Since 2007 it is estimated that the number of frontline journalists employed by professional news publishers in the UK has fallen from 23,000 to 17,000.

Provision of public interest news at the local and regional level is most threatened: ‘Collapsing revenue hasn’t just led to cut-backs; it has cut a swathe through the local press […] falling revenues have helped to drive 321 closures in the local press over the last ten years.’

If we go back to 1885 it was possible to find advice on this question from ‘Literary Success: A Guide to Practical Journalism’ by A. Arthur Reade- also an author of ‘Study and Stimulants’ and ‘Tea and Tea-Drinking.’

In his first chapter, Reade asked the editors.

Mr Wemyss Reid, editor of the Leeds Mercury, said: ‘As for education, the more of it the better.’ He added ‘A reporter should be well read in contemporary history and English Literature.’

The advice offered by other editors was rather more eccentric- even for those days.

W.H Mudford, editor of the London Evening Standard, seemed to think that any aspiring journalist should devote at least a couple of hours each day to studying the leading writers on the reign of Queen Anne (1702-07).

Charles T Condon, a successful journalist of New York City advised: ‘My advice to my young friends intending journalism is to resolutely banish from their heads all nonsense about becoming celebrated.’

Humility, education without end, studying Queen Anne every day and perhaps going on to reading Arthur Reade’s book on tea-drinking hardly constitutes an assured programme of journalism training.

In chapter 22 on the perils of journalism, aspirant journalists are warned: ‘The possession of a robust body is one of the essential conditions of success in journalism […] for a reporter needs the strength of a horse and the endurance of a camel in order to discharge his duties satisfactorily.’

The Centre for Journalism at the University of Kent began in 2007 when the profession of journalism seemed to be in such a better place.

It may not be the case that its students need the strength of a horse and the endurance of a camel, but those who do sign up for its degrees receive an intensely vocational and professional programme of education.

The centre is based in Kent University’s Medway campus in Chatham, hardly one of the most glamorous higher educational environments.

But journalists are expected to work and thrive in towns, cities and areas of the country that are not dreaming spires and fashionable centres of style and razzmatazz.

Kent University’s Centre for Journalism offering undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in journalism since 2007. Image: Kent University

The Director of the Centre is former editor of The Scotsman, Scotland’s national quality newspaper, and a former output editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Professor Tim Luckhurst. In the 12 years he has been director he has guided generations of students into employment at all levels of the industry.

Destinations include: Archant and Newsquest newspapers, BBC News, CNN, Daily Mail, The Financial Times, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, the Mail Online, Guardian, Sky News and ITV News.

The undergraduate degree is accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) and consistently rated as among the best for students passing their exams.

In the Complete University Guide for 2018, the Centre was ranked as first for graduate employability.

Professor Luckhurst emphasises the diversity of his students and their ability to achieve notable success. Lydia Hamilton, who graduated in 2015, is the youngest editor in ITV News. Jasmin Sahota, who graduated in 2016, is social media editor of the Financial Times. Kishan Koria, who graduated from their MA in Multimedia Journalism in 2017, is Robert Peston’s producer at ITN.

The students at the centre have considerable advantages in accessing the close tie-up in professional placements with the Kent Messenger Group. Paid internships are also provided with the KMTV television news service which is based at the centre.

KMTV News studio operation with students from the Centre for Journalism. Image: KMTV

This provides a powerful and successful symbiotic partnership between a university and professional regional broadcast journalism.

The underlining philosophy of the centre’s teaching is that the best way for people to learn journalism is ‘to go out and be a journalist […] Talk to real people about real stories. And publish them in real newspapers, magazines, television and radio programmes and web sites.’

The centre is also trying to bridge the practice of professional journalism with academic research. A recent grant of £25,000 from Wireless Group/News UK funded the project: ‘Assessing the delivery of BBC Radio Five Live’s public service commitments.’

KMTV control room. Image: KMTV

This received widespread coverage and debate in the trade and national media and was submitted to Ofcom.

Professor Luckhurst says: ‘We are operating in a very tough competitive environment. The world’s need for diligent, accurate, factual reporting has never been more urgent. But, at the same time, journalists have rarely been more obviously threatened and persecuted.’

The Centre’s support from industry in the form of bursaries and scholarships all helps. So does the fact that Sky News now employs ten journalists educated at the centre and also sponsors an annual Bob Friend Memorial Lecture.