Advantages can be cheeky to the police
Disadvantages low pay, long hours
The days when journalists could file their copy from the pub after a few pints of Dogbolter and a scotch egg are long gone.These days they are desk wallahs more likely to be glued to the phone than pounding the streets for their next front page splash. Churning is a vital skill.
There is still some fun to be had - press trips, freebies, unmasking scams and crooks, digging into big exclusives, covering demos and court, pricking the pompous - but it is becoming a bit like Jeffrey Archer's pals: scarce.
Add to this a daily reporter's relatively low pay (c£21,000 pa for a veteran), and the UK's long hours culture and you have an industry which is not going to win staff motivation awards from the TUC.
Newspaper editors have plugged the gaps with rookies straight from college. Fussy editors once demanded graduates; nowadays a pulse and a pen is the minimum to get into journalism (I'm in a cynical mood!).You can guess what this has done to reporting standards - is your local daily as good as it was even five years ago? Trainees will blossom but time is the teacher.
But one man's stale bread is another man's slap-up meal - there has never been a better time for newcomers to land a job because there are so many more vacancies.
The easiest way is to take a course run by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), accepted by most as the industry's ruling body.
You need five A-C GCSE passes, including English for pre-entry. Some colleges ask for two A-levels or a degree.If you've previously taken a degree you'll have to stump up the cost of the NCTJ course. There is no figure on the NCTJ website but a guesstimate would be £2,000.
Subjects include media law, local and central government, shorthand (100wpm), interviews and reporting speeches. There are also court and council visits and a few weeks (usually unpaid) self-arranged work experience.There are exams in each subject at the end of the course. Pass these and you can chose where to work in regional newspapers (at the moment, at any rate).
The key requirement when attending interviews is to have a good cuttings file - during work experience push for a by-line on your stories.Two years down the line and you can sit the NCTJ's national certificate examination (law, speech and interview) and become a senior reporter with a about a 20 per cent salary hike (although the NCE pass rate is about 40 per cent).
For more on journalism visit www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk. To see yourself in 10 years time, click on the link called 'funnies' followed by 'bad day at the office'.For info on the NCTJ contact (with a SAE) Marie Baker, Pre-entry administrator, NCTJ, Latton Bush Centre, Southern Way, Harlow, Essex, CM18 7BL.
Have fun!PS: Admittedly poor working conditions is not the whole story in journalism - full employment (or as full as it's going to get) has cut the flow of recruits to every industry.
And editors face stiff competition for staff from the rapidly expanding new media sector - trainees who traditionally cut their teeth on weeklies or dailies can now join dot.coms.
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