Public Interest News Journalists: The teachers inspiring the next generation

When we opened the Public Interest News List for nominations, it wasn’t long before the contribution of journalism lecturers from around the UK was being recognised too. As part of Journalism Matters week, Behind Local News doffs its cap to those teaching our public interest journalists of the future…

Amanda Ball, Nottingham Trent University

You said: Mandy Ball, an honorary journalist, has taught a generation of journalists about the importance of public affairs and the skills for reporting public interest news.

She is a brilliant lecturer at Nottingham Trent University and she’s the NCTJ’s chief examiner for public affairs and a senior examiner for media law, regulation and ethics.

Paul Bradshaw, Birmingham City University

You said: Data journalism has been the biggest innovation in public interest news for years, and Paul has been at the forefront of showing students how to make the most of it.

Paul just loves journalism and loves helping anyone he can make better journalism, using all sorts of tools, both technological and journalistic, to tell stories which wouldn’t be told otherwise.

He’s a champion of Freedom of Information, and makes sure anyone he works with knows that getting the data is just the start of the story.

David Brine, Bournemouth University Multimedia Journalism (BAMMJ)

You said: David is so passionate when he taught me about Public Affairs and really brought the subjects alive.

His teaching has continued to inspire me as I have done various jobs in local news since then. Thanks!

Julian Calvert, Glasgow Caledonian University

You said: Julian is a senior lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University, where he is part of the team teaching NCTJ-accredited courses taken by many of the journalists who are working in Scotland today.

Previously he was a newspaper editor and he still teaches print design, as well as practical reporting, but in 2012 he decided to learn additional online skills, as the curriculum was being updated to improve students’ employability.

With the support of colleagues he learned to use Wordpress by setting up a news website, thelochsidepress.com, in the rural area where he lives.

The website has allowed Julian’s teaching to stay up to date not only in terms of the journalism he produces, e.g. Freedom of Information requests, creating Google maps and how to access public documents, but with wider industry trends — the website is part of the Independent Community News Network and has recently switched to a casual payment system for most of its archived stories

Sam Cooper, Sheffield College

You said: As a brand new NCTJ trainer in the 2019–20 academic year, Sam Cooper has made an exceptional start to his teaching career as the main trainer for apprentices and community news reporters studying the Diploma in Journalism at Sheffield College.

Despite the challenges of guiding reporters through the diploma on his first year of teaching, while learning the ropes of the qualification, administering remote exams and coping with lockdown, Sam has excelled. His students and apprentices are on course for achieving the diploma, many of whom are reaching gold standard.

An inspiration to students, he also won the Teacher of the Year award at the college’s 2020 Staff Excellence Awards. Coming straight from his role as senior multimedia reporter at The Star Sheffield, his wealth of industry knowledge has had a real impact on reporters going out and reporting on under-served communities — stories in the public interest.

Feedback from one community news reporter was: “The standard of teaching is excellent. Sam Cooper does everything possible, within the once per week sessions, to ensure that we’re learning what we need to pass the exams and apply it to our actual work.”

Andy Dickinson, Manchester Met University

You said: Many a newsroom around the UK has benefitted from Andy’s work with students, first at the University of Central Lancashire and more recently at Manchester Met. He stands out because he pushes his students to work harder to tell stores in different ways.

Andy encourages students to ask more questions and put themselves in the shoes of the reader/viewer, explaining how constantly changing technology is changing the way people get news, and how journalists should make the most of it.

He’s also been a champion for newsrooms to take diversity more seriously, long before it was fashionable to do so.

Mike Dodd

You said: Mike Dodd has been a brilliant co-editor of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists for ten years and has worked on six editions of the book with Mark Hanna. He always made time to help trainees and journalists understand the law and deal with difficult issues. Mike has dedicated his career to journalism and is a passionate advocate for press freedom.

He has had an extensive career in media law and as a working journalist. Following his training with the Surrey Herald series, he spent time working in Fleet Street and in South Africa before joining the Press Association, where he worked until his recent retirement for more than 40 years.

Mike qualified as a barrister and was called to the Bar at Middle Temple in July 2004 and all his legal qualifications were obtained while simultaneously working full-time for the Press Association.

Susan Green, City of Wolverhampton College

You said: Sue has been described by Kim Fletcher, the NCTJ’s chairman, as “an inspirational trainer who placed Wolverhampton College firmly and consistently at the top of the results tables and, working with the BBC Academy, has pioneered training for apprentices from a wider talent pool”.

Sue has been a fantastic ambassador for the NCTJ, in particular as a member of the public affairs board and senior media law examiner. She is well known by her former students as inspiring, knowledgeable, supportive, invaluable, passionate, exemplary and “a legend”.

City of Wolverhampton College employed Sue in 1998 where she taught reporting, media law and public affairs on NCTJ courses until the end of 2013. Her retirement, which has finally come in 2020, was put on hold when the BBC signed a deal with Wolverhampton College to help them train 46 BBC local radio apprentices.

Paul Foster, University of Portsmouth

You said: Paul helped me land my first national scoop which was picked up by Press Association and sent out to all UK media. He provided me with the necessary FOI data to write the article and was very encouraging throughout the process.

The story was an FOI investigation about the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme, or ‘Sarah’s Law.’ The law allows individuals to ask the police if someone has a criminal record of committing crimes against children. The article revealed that there were 16,900 applications to the scheme since it started in 2011, and that 1,400 parents were told that someone with access to their child/children was a sex offender.

The story brought the controversial issue and Sarah’s Law back into the public eye. It may have potentially made people aware of the scheme who didn’t know it existed before, therefore increasing the number of people who can make use of it. The piece being sent to Press Association also meant I landed my first national scoop as a journalist.

Mark Hanna, University of Sheffield

You said: For generations of journalism students, Mark Hanna has been a constant source of encyclopaedic knowledge of all things media law. His name is synonymous with the topic as the co-editor of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists since 2009.

His co-editorship of five editions, as well as his own teaching to students at the University of Sheffield since 1996, has meant he has been able to inspire generations of journalists who can be confident in their media law knowledge when reporting.

You will be hard pressed to find any trainee reporter who hasn’t benefitted from the knowledge and experience of Mark.

Michael Hill, University of Cardiff

You said: As course director of the MA News Journalism course at Cardiff University — one of the NCTJ’s flagship courses — Mike’s enthusiasm and commitment to training the next generation of journalists is second-to-none.

By equipping students with core reporting techniques as well as a whole raft of digital skills, Mike has ensured that students on the course are armed with the relevant skills to succeed in all areas of journalism, showcased by the university’s near-perfect employment rate over the last three years.

Mike is an ambassador for public affairs and as a member of the NCTJ’s public affairs board, he has been guiding the module’s programmes of study and exams to ensure it encapsulates the constant changes in government and society. His teaching inspires students to feel safe in their knowledge of public affairs when reporting on council meetings and decisions in the public interest, and we feel that his quality teaching to the next generation of journalists owes him a place on the Public Interest News List.

David Kett

You said: Highly respected journalism trainer David Kett should appear on the Public Interest News List simply because he is a public affairs guru, inspiring generations of journalists to write stories in the public interest.

David, who taught public affairs on accredited courses for almost 40 years, had an infectious enthusiasm for the subject. David started teaching at Highbury College in 1971, and later taught at Bournemouth Uni and the Southampton Institute, as well as tutoring at Up to Speed journalism training.

David has been described by Kim Fletcher, the NCTJ’s chairman, as “the eminence grise of public affairs”. David has also been a member of the NCTJ’s public affairs exam board for over 30 years. In this capacity, he has been responsible for setting and marking exams, designing and updating the programme of study and pioneering distance learning provision in this area.

Andy Martin, Newsquest and Bournemouth University

You said: He taught me Public Affairs whilst I was at university at Bournemouth (multimedia journalism) and he was so passionate about local politics it inspired me.

I still think of him when I’m covering stories. I went on to write lots of investigations about local politics, crime and the community.

His passion for journalism was clear to see and has inspired many.

James Morrison

James Morrison has authored all six editions of the NCTJ’s Essential Public Affairs for Journalists and is a senior examiner. The book remains the definitive handbook for journalism students and trainees looking for a firm foundation in their understanding of central and local government.

James guides readers through the complexities of public policy so that they can generate incisive news and features in the public interest. With a successful track record in journalist, James is an inspiring teacher and academic and continues to combine this with his freelance journalism and writing.

Miriam Phillips, Bournemouth University

You said: As an award-winning journalist, Miriam’s passion for the industry is infectious as she passes on her wealth of knowledge to her students at Bournemouth University and as she delivers NCTJ training to a cohort of community news reporters.

She is committed to giving them the skills and techniques these reporters need to succeed when working on community news in under-served areas and forming relationships with diverse communities. Miriam teaches from her own experiences of setting up local news websites for Northcliffe and Trinity Mirror in the boroughs of London.

Using this knowledge of hyperlocal news, Miriam launched her own publishing company in 2015 and now edits and publishes a luxury magazine with all the news and features for Poundbury, Dorset. For these reasons, we would like to nominate Miriam to feature on the Public Interest News List for her commitment in training reporters in public interest journalism.

Carole Watson, University of Sunderland

You said: A committed trainer, Carole Watson from the University of Sunderland, teaches media law, regulation, ethics and court reporting to students across all journalism undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Students of hers, who can be confident in their sound knowledge of media law, include Steph Finnegan, from LeedsLive.

Steph used her training in the face of a torrent of abuse when reporting on the Stephen Yaxley-Lennon case. As a member of the NCTJ’s law examinations board, she works alongside other members to ensure the programmes of study and examinations are rigorous, scrupulously fair and contemporaneous to reflect the changing nature of media law. As programme leader for the BA Fashion Journalism course, she is committed to ensuring that her students achieve the NCTJ diploma, giving them the skills and techniques to the highest professional standards to report on stories in the public interest.

Paul Wiltshire, University of Gloucestershire

You said: Journalism will only have passionate journalists if they are taught by passionate people — and few people believe so steadfastly in local journalism than Paul Wiltshire.

His students always speak highly of him, and his influence is visible in their work when they do work experience or gets jobs in local news.

He’s also a much-need celebrator of local journalism on social media, which as we all know can be a dark place for journalism at times.

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