The Challenges Of Becoming A Journalist

Harlow journalism student Ben Pattison talks about his experiences on the course so far and the challenges he faces.

The NCTJ is the National Council for the Training of Journalists and is the pathway to a future in journalism. The course is split into seven segments, going through the various areas involved in the journalism industry. Much to my delight, studying sports journalism is part of the course, but the shorthand module will be the bane of my life.


Shorthand, for journalists, is the ticket to a future in the industry but is possibly the hardest thing I have ever attempted to learn. Very similar to learning languages in school, the topic is extremely difficult to tackle and I’m still struggling with some of the basics. Trying to learn all the different symbols and squiggles and then to put this into 60 words-a-minute is concerning me. I never had the expectations of shorthand being easy, however it’s been significantly harder than I could have imagined.


Moving away from shorthand, we have been studying Radio, TV, Public affairs, Essential Journalism and Law. Quickly enough you find your favourite subjects and will know which ones you may struggle with. Personally, I tend to enjoy the more practical topics such as TV, Radio and Essential Journalism. These topics are more imaginative and allow you to put yourself out there. I really enjoy editing together clips I have recorded; this allows me to express my own input into my work. Creating originality and showing your own style and format is what thrills me the most about journalism – finding your own news stories and documenting them in your own way. However when it comes to the theory side of things, the laws or the public affairs, I no longer thrive. These topics are the ones you just have to do and get on with. There won’t be much excitement but getting through them is the only way you can pass the course.


The course has lived up to my expectations so far; the topics I thought I would struggle with have been the hardest to engage in. Whereas I have been enjoying the practical topics. Shorthand has been a nuisance but with the correct frame of mind I know I will get through it!

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Ben Pattison

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