NCTJ makes resilience training mandatory for its journalism courses

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Credit: Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

UK journalism students will receive resilience training aimed at helping them deal with the stresses of working in journalism – including reporting on traumatic topics as well as online criticism or abuse.

The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) is the UK’s leading journalism training organisation. Its qualifications, and specifically the Level 5 Diploma in Journalism, are a common hiring requirement for trainee journalists.

The NCTJ has updated its performance standards, which means that training providers (such as universities) must provide resilience training to all students in its accredited courses. This will be reviewed annually with proof of training provided by the service providers.

“We would define [resilience] as students feel sufficiently supported and equipped to cover topics or scenarios in their training and assessments that may cause them distress or anguish,” says Rachel Manby, assignment manager, NCTJ, in a email to Journalism.co.uk when asked what that may include.

“Training should enable students to look out for their own well-being, particularly when dealing with public criticism, online abuse and emotionally difficult topics. Students will naturally need the support and guidance of editors in chef and their colleagues when they enter the industry, but we want them to feel ready to tackle emotional topics during their training and not shy away from them.”

The NCTJ has confirmed that training providers have the discretion to deliver this training in a manner that suits them, including content, delivery, and timings within their course structure. However, the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism will be updated to use scenarios based on real events and can deal with topics that may be distressing.

Resilience training is not formally assessed as part of the degree. But the curriculum for Essential Journalism, one of the compulsory degree modules, includes an unexamined section on health and safety.

This subject requires training providers to ensure that candidates are prepared to deal with events that may be dangerous or distressing, such as covering a story where an audience member has been seriously injured, or distressing images and videos occurring. in a newsroom, including via social media. media.

What type of industry do students enter?

The training sessions are a welcome announcement for the news industry and are the latest example of a growing conversation about resilience in journalism. That’s the view of John Crowley (right), a veteran journalist and co-founder of Headlines Network, an organization providing training on mental health in journalism.

“We all realize that newsrooms are fast, dynamic and sometimes demanding. We accept and welcome that. But there is a lot of pressure on young journalists entering the profession where they face pressure to perform, to work overtime and to go beyond what is perfectly acceptable.

“The industry has always been like this, but it’s a blind spot in terms of the demands placed on journalists. If there’s no support, or if journalists aren’t made aware how much it can be difficult, it can have a real effect on people.

“A lot of journalists have entered the industry thinking it looks shiny and shiny, but when they come in they realize it’s not as attractive as it’s made out to be. Lots of young journalists will vote with their feet and depart.”

He says the effectiveness of the NCTJ’s decision depends on the content of the training because the NCTJ requires training providers to design and deliver the sessions. The number one need seen by Headlines Network is dealing with vicarious trauma, which refers to the emotional impact of reporting on traumatic news such as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Resilience training should also include support for individuals on how to spark conversations in the workplace, Crowley says.

“A lot of young journalists are adept at talking about their own mental health and with young colleagues. But talking to superiors, putting your head above the parapet and starting that conversation with more experienced newsroom managers is much more. hard. .

“It’s not just about building resilience per se – which is really important – it’s also about how to start a conversation about good mental health culturally.”

In addition to the resilience component, a new Journalism Safety course will also be launched at the NCTJ Journalism Skills Academy by Fall 2022. It is designed for any current or potential journalist who wishes to gain more skills and support to stay safe in different settings.

It will include advice on how to protect yourself and others online, including managing privacy and online abuse, and how to handle reports on sensitive topics.

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