Starting my NCTJ qualification left me with a lot of thoughts; in fact, my head is very rarely not buzzing with story ideas, questions, shorthand outlines, snatches of poetry, possible drawings. So: I thought I would share 100 thoughts that I have had about being on this course with you. Some may be cynical, sarcastic, tongue in cheek, but this is to convey the variety of moods and situations:

  1. “Wow, everyone here is so much older than me! They are so intimidating!”
  2. “But actually, I really like them. They are so cool.”
  3. “I wish I could be like them.”
  4. “Shorthand?! SHORTHAND?!”
  5. *Sees a new outline* “What the Frick frack does that mean?”
  6. *Curiosity overtakes* “Got any good stories, classmate?”
  8. “So many numbers, so little time… What’s 52A again?”
  9. *On someone saying something controversial* “I’m not sure what to think, but I won’t judge you out loud, in the interests of not being biased.”
  10. “Why do journalists get such flack?”
  11. “Oh, now I understand why…” (On hearing about Untold, the podcast.)
  12. “I’d like to know more about X,Y,Z”
  13. *On seeing a news story breaking in the kitchen meeting room* “GOTTA WATCH THIS!”
  14. “Remind me: what’s privilege again?”
  15. “And what are the two different parts again to the schedule?”
  17. “Repeat after me: IPSO, PCC, JDF…”
  18. “What is the Shorthand outline to…?”
  19. “What is Floccinaucinihilipilification in Shorthand?”
  20. Yes, really.
  21. “Talking on the Landline to strangers is hard”
  22. *Develops new tone for talking on the phone to convey possible stress*
  23. “Oh, that probably sounds like I’m p***** off. Whoops”
  24. “Press offices are so helpful…”
  26. “Stay calm, stay cool”
  27. “People ask me “Why do you want to be a journalist?” a lot. I shall scream if I’m asked this any time soon.”
  28. “Can you actually be unbiased in a news broadcast?”
  29. Concludes: not always. Humans are too complex.
  30. And my own bias can get in the way sometimes.
  31. But it’s best not too let it.
  32. *Sees a news story breaking late at night* “I MUST TEXT MY CLASSMATE WHO THIS IS RELEVANT TO”
  33. *On another cabinet minister resigning * “Boom, boom, boom, Another One Bites The Dust”
  34. “Don’t get too involved, Lydia”
  35. *Sees something happening* “THIS IS A GOOD STORY”
  36. *Creates list of emails to send about stories”
  37. “I best write this a diary, or I will loose track of who I’m taking to”
  38. “Yep, lost track”
  39. “Oh, wait, wait, I understand where I’m going”
  40. “Why do people in high places have expensive phone numbers to call?”
  42. *On receipt of said information* “Thank you kindly, good sir. You have a good day now.”
  43. *Receives the exact same email from someone continually* “Sir, I’m not going to do the story you want. No matter how many times you ask me”
  44. *Researches email blocking functions for spam and the above mentioned scenario*
  45. *Blocks incessant story tips*
  46. *Sees something interesting on Twitter* “Maybe they’d be a good story?”
  47. 10 minutes later: “No, something better will turn up.”
  48. Or: “Get me their details now!!”
  49. “Asking questions is so hard..”
  50. “But not if you write them down!”
  51. “Will I ever get to being able to write 100 words a minute in Shorthand?”
  52. “Or even 60 words?”
  53. “I’ve got forty words a minute!”
  54. “Time to celebrate this major achievement!”
  55. *Saves a tiny bottle of champagne for graduation*
  56. “I’m so worried about the examined Portfolio”
  57. “Please Mr Newspaperman, let me write this…”
  58. “How do people get a record of splashes on the front page?”
  59. “Everyone should listen to Untold!”
  60. “Harold Evans is my hero! I really wish that I could meet him, and his wife, Tina Brown.”
  61. “Investigations is what I would love to go into.”
  62. “How do investigatory journalists get stories?”
  63. “Surveillance to the excess is wrong! How is it even legal?”
  64. “Gotta protect my sources..”
  65. “How could I get a national story?”
  67. “However, there are some crimes committed by journalists that are disgusting”
  68. “This is my calling..”
  69. “This world is going way too fast for me. This means I need to land a story quicker..”
  70. ” ‘No one pays like News Of The World’ Uggghh”
  71. “I can’t wait for Public affairs”
  72. “Ah, politics…”
  73. “I’m so grateful that I haven’t taken the fast track course”
  74. “I’m going up in the world!! How the Frick frack did I get here?”
  75. “How do people communicate? It’s hard asking questions!”
  76. “Law is definitely my favourite”
  78. “Spelling is the bane of my life.”
  79. “As is Shorthand”
  80. “Who is the guest speaker going to be this week?”
  81. “I can’t wait for the ….. ……. talk” (I can’t blog about this just yet.)
  82. “I’m gonna write questions for guests who are coming down.”
  83. Research knows best”
  84. “Can’t go wrong with Research.”
  85. “I should start drinking more. It seems to make good anecdotes.”
  86. “Security is paramount.”
  87. I wish I could be as good a journalist as Ben Bradlee”
  88. “Or even Harry Evans”
  89. “And Caitlin Moran!”
  90. “Or Tina Brown”
  91. “Don’t ask, you don’t get”
  92. “It’s very hard interviewing people face-to-face”
  93. “But then again, I would rather be the interviewer, not the interviewee”
  94. “Do we really have a free Press?”
  95. “Why would Leveson 2 apparently be a bad idea? It should happen-we need accountability.”
  96. “Accountability for people in power, that is.”
  97. “All I wish to do is to help people”
  98. “Gotta look professional”
  99. “Here I go!”
  100. “I have finally found my home”

What’s your routine on Saturday?

At 9:15, I start the first topic lecture (currently Law), with a lunch break in-between, with Shorthand later. In Law, we learn about things such as Defamation, libel-with things such as Untold (Podcast), and Harry Evans (brilliant journalist) thrown in.
But the break is where ‘magic’ happens.
Among the food-a combination of rice on a dish, a sandwich, or a delicious Naan Hut or Chips, we all love a chat, a good old chinwag.
We may be on a break to eat our lunch, but we talk. Usually: “How are you finding Shorthand?” or a particular favourite of mine “Got any stories?”
These chats yield insights that are of such use; it’s a way to find out what is happening locally, what stories are up for grab, and how everyone is feeling. It’s also a way to chat about topics such as politics, current news events (with BBC news on seemingly continually), and any challenges we’re overcoming.
If the group could be divided, there are some distinct personalities; the Court reporters, the political gurus, the sports journalists, the ‘niche’ writers, the investigator (me, possibly), and Data journalists.
The best networking takes place on your break. These aspiring journalists are your friends, and they are brilliant.
These people can relate to you in terms of career and the industry that you’ll be going into once you finish the course. You could discuss all sorts of scenarios:

  • A problem with a story. If you’re out interviewing people, formulating quotes, taking pictures, there can be problems. However, the people around you are great for advice. Ask them what they would do.
  • Going on an outing. I haven’t been to a Court, but I am very curious about going. Law lectures often mention what happens in a court-but I would like to visit the different types to illustrate further.
  • Discussing the course. What are your worries, your hopes, what you’re struggling with?

If you end up doing an NCTJ course, the people (i.e students) are one of your best assets. They are your friends, and they will help you out.


“And what would you like to do in the industry, if you graduate?”

It’s a question that I get asked a lot. Because: just what would you like to do as a journalist? And I’m still wrestling with it. And since I started the course, my ambition has since changed.
You see, I love the idea of Investigative journalism; I think that this is illustrated furthermore by the fact that Harry Evans is my hero. (I would love to meet him.) I wrote about why I am bothering to be a journalist a little while ago, explaining this further.
But; how do investigative journalists get their scoops? (Where do the tip offs come from? How do you get the information? Besides: as a Blogger, I’m not sure how I can go about investigating international scandals. I’m not on a paper or magazine, neither do I have a staff job.)
I like the idea of methodically writing, researching, getting the information; fits my sensibilities, as well as having Aspergers, doesn’t it?
There’s also the idea of.. helping people. Again, citing Evans: he helped the Thalidomide children, because what happened is disgusting. I think that that is commendable because he did that as Editor of The Sunday Times, whilst there were a lot of hurdles to overcome. There’s also Untold, a brilliant podcast; I think that the family involved needed a journalist, or a team at least, to help them.
But: I also admire Caitlin Moran.
The slightly mouthy journalist contributes columns to The Times; however, she is also an accomplished author. I loved How To Be A Woman, and got to meet her back when Moranifesto was released. I like the idea of being a National columnist.
And then: Lesley Ann Jones. She got to go and tour with some brilliant Rock bands-including Queen-and interviewed people such as David Bowie and Micheal Jackson. I love music, Rock in particular; reviewing concerts, albums, and interviewing musicians sounds a lot of fun to me.
I also really like the idea of Crime reporter; ever since I read The Child by Fiona Barton, I was intrigued by how an injustice was uncovered.

How do you decide what to do when becoming a journalist?


I get asked a lot about the course I’m currently taking, which is training me to be a journalist. Therefore, I thought I would expand my posts about it-which you can read here-by bringing another Blogger on board.
Kate is a Blogger and journalist, who will soon be beginning to broadcast with a new radio station; she is also a brilliant writer. For today, we decided to do an interview swap-where I interview her, post it, vice versa-to find out more about journalism. She may also be guest posting in future.

What was it that made you want to be a journalist?

I spent my early childhood reading and writing – so much so, I completed a (rather poor and factually inaccurate) novel before I left primary school! During my later years at primary school and my early years at secondary school, my ambition was to be a successful author, but as I got slightly older, I started to feel that this was a bit unrealistic, and felt that journalism would be a more viable way of being able to write for a career. Positive feedback from some journalistic-style writing assignments at secondary school helped develop this interest. I did my first work experience placement on a local newspaper when I was 15 and I loved it, and that was what helped me decide that I wanted to work in the media when I was older.

C/O: Kate Jones.

How did you get the current job you have today?

Last year, while I was back at my childhood home after finishing my English degree at university (but prior to my graduation ceremony), I started looking online at media opportunities with a view to trying to get a role in this area. I had considered doing a Master’s course in journalism to give myself a better chance of getting my foot in the door for my first media job, but hadn’t applied for one because, what with the high costs of doing this kind of course, I hoped I might be able to get into the industry and train while woking (by doing the NCTJ diploma by distance learning or the like) to keep costs low. One of the opportunities I saw was a part-time job as a magazine editorial assistant near to where I live (which was an incredibly lucky thing, as I live in a pretty rural area). I applied for this role, and was very lucky to make it through both a telephone and then “in-person” interview to be offered the job. I started this role, which primarily involves working as an assistant for a number of business-to-business shipping magazines, in June 2017.
A few months later, my hours were increased, and not long after this, my first publication came out in which I was named as Assistant Editor of the title.My role involves assisting with the production of several titles that fall under a shipping-related remit. The work includes proofreading articles, uploading articles online, writing article synopses and contents pages, choosing pictures for pieces (both online and in print), keeping the company I work for’s social media accounts up-to-date and coming up with themes and ideas for future magazine issues. I also write news articles and features for the different publications I work on.

You’re also soon to start at a radio station; how did you get to doing that?

Having radio shows was something that I started doing while I was at university. In my second year, I applied for training to be a presenter on my university’s student radio station (a voluntary-run station) and I started broadcasting my own show in the third term of that academic year. I presented a number of regular and one-off shows while I was a member of the station.
After leaving university, one of the things I really missed was having a radio show. I had so many great memories from my time on air and I loved being able to play whatever music I wanted and create good content for my broadcasts. I thought about maybe going to the closest hospital radio station and seeing if I could get involved there, though it is a bit far off from where I live. Then, a few months ago, my Mum showed me an email sent to my sister, which was calling for college students to volunteer at the community radio station Corinium Radio in Gloucestershire. The station, which broadcasts online 24/7, offers listeners a variety of shows including music programmes, lifestyle-related programmes and drama. Though I am not of my sister’s age group, I knew that the station would probably be happy to accept new volunteers of all ages (given that it is completely volunteer-led), and its website proved me right. I emailed them and the station manager invited me to meet her and subsequently find out more about the station before choosing whether to get involved – and it wasn’t a difficult choice!

What do you think the appeal is of broadcasting, in comparison to print or online journalism?

I would say that it’s both the popularity of broadcast as a media form, particularly in this current climate, and the ease for audiences to receive this kind of content. Now, with YouTube clips, online videos and Snapchat and Instagram Stories – as well as the traditional broadcasting form of television – widely used both to disseminate news and as a form of popular culture, I can see why people might find having to read a detailed article more of a chore when they can switch on the television/turn on the radio/watch a vlog and absorb the content without having to expend much mental effort. Having said that, I still think that there will be a place for written journalism in the future, both in its print and online forms. We’re in a really strange era at the moment whereby methods of receiving media which would have been viewed as obsolete a few years ago are now experiencing a revival. Look at how Urban Outfitters are now selling cassette and record players! Even older-style audio medias are being regenerated – the song claims that “Video killed the radio star”, but just think about how popular podcasts have become in recent times. Thus, I’m sure that a desire to consume written media (newspapers and magazines) will come back around, both in print and online forms.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

I’m really not sure, but I know that I will still be working in the media industry in some form – and I would be delighted if I was holding higher-level positions at media companies.

Do you have any tips for fellow journalists?

When writing standard-size news articles, put the quote/quotes you will be using on the page first – it will give you a better sense of direction when it comes to creating the full piece.
Social media is a great place to hunt for stories. Follow accounts connected to the content your publication writes about – certain posts can serve as great stories/bases for stories and you might come across a story you would have missed otherwise. Find a way of making a note of story leads you find on social media so you can refer back to them. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to people for interviews – often, you’re helping them tell a story belonging to them and they’re usually very happy to help.

When I started my journalism training, it was pressed upon us that, from day one, we would be writing for publication.
That’s something I struggle with; coming up with ideas continually. So: what to do? (Apart from writing a blog post, that is.)

Go and look at Journalism resources.

Journalism resources, for journalists in training, are brilliant. Even if they are defunct, there’s usually a wealth of material for you to use. (It could serve as inspiration, or you could have a go at something that’s suggested-such as an FOI request-and document it.) Jump For Journalism is one I would recommend (I use to contribute to it, under the name of Annette Stevens). Hello Hygge also has a wealth of previous posts about Journalism.

Take note of diary stories. 

On Twitter, there’s always something like “National cake day”.. You could always write something, cobble together a few quotes, and pitch it.

Get a journo mate.

The best ideas come when you are on your break, I think. But your ‘journo mates’ often have the best stories, or even a tip off occasionally. (Read this post from Jump For Journalism.) There’s a particular classmate, and her stories fascinate me. (You can see her blog here.) My guess is that she may end up being a court reporter-she has a lot of stories for us-and you can read more about it here. 

Social media; use it. 

People are always promoting their work and causes. Contact them, and ask for a quote; then stitch the article together. Job done. Oh, and blogs are also something I think you should make an effort to follow, like Criddle Me This. 

Newspaper and magazine clippings. 

Cut out a NIB (News in brief-the stories of 25 words or less, usually down the side of a page.) Allow this to act as an inspiration basis, therefore jotting down your ideas. It could be questions related to the article, or even an idea springing from one particular word.

Network, network, network!

If you are at an event, and you meet a fellow journalist, talk to them. Engage. Give them a business card. Ask them what their latest story is, or what they are currently writing.


You could report about or review an event you went to. Or the event could maybe serve as a fact finding event. (For instance: I was gutted when told I could not attend Christmas in July; I was thinking I could therefore put together a piece like “the 9 best Christmas deals for….”) Review a concert, report what happened at a council meeting..


Is there something bugging you? Does it have you outraged, passionate? Then write about it. It could be for a blog, a column.

Freedom of information. 

This is a wonderful piece of legislation. I cannot stress this enough. Think of a story you wish to write-“Noise complaints on the rise for the fifth year”-and ask for the information needed. Stuc for ideas? Then read this. 

Lydia XO