Setting sail on the good/scary ship Journalism

I’m now coming to the end of my second week as a NCTJ Journalism student. It’s been 18 days since I left my full time job to pursue a career in writing. A big risk but it was follow your heart time. I’ve wanted to write this before now but the last week or so has been a bit of a blur. I want to get a few things down, to highlight how godawful I am now, and hopefully this will be a comical relief to look back on in the coming months. Fingers and toes firmly crossed.

On the very first day, I set out all a-fluster with my gorgeous new satchel that my lovely colleagues had bought me. We did a minor induction, go given our first assignment and then had the rest of the week free to mull over what we had gotten ourselves into. A brilliant digital arts festival- CultureTECH which is in it’s second year running clashed with our first real week, so guess who had to ‘cover’ it. We chose a few events each and prepared questions. On our next day in we were told we were attending a press conference in our honour with the organiser of CultureTECH that afternoon. We had a full day of classes so I didn’t actually have a chance to prepare any questions, and my heart was thumping as we wound our way across town to the big unused bank building that CultureTECH had revived. Everyone did brilliantly, Connor Doherty was great being grilled, I felt like I often did at University tutorials, I had to force myself to speak and when my question squeaked out it didn’t even make any sense to me never mind him. Red face but I got an answer and we got CultureTECH press passes with our twitter names on them so that was super cool. I survived.


I attended the 1st International Cat Video Festival in Cafe Soul courtyard last Thursday, mostly for the pure fun of it, but also with the vague intentions of carrying out some vox pops afterwards. Brilliant stuff from Scott Stulen and the team at @catvidfest. Very surreal.  ‘It’s not about watching cat videos, it’s about watching cat videos together.’ A great wee atmosphere outside in the rain under a canopy, bring your own beer or just have cups of lattes from Cafe Soul like we did. Lots of geeky funny moments.  I enjoyed the event but cried on the way home because I couldn’t pluck up the courage.

The event that I covered was ‘Off the Page: Storytelling without Borders.’ The inclusion of the word storytelling attracted me to it, and then I saw Lou Morgan’s name on the list of ‘mentors’ for the day. I’ve followed her on twitter forever, she’s a writer – author of ‘Blood and Feathers’ and the new sequel ‘Rebellion’ so I asked if I could interview her and she said yes. I was so grateful, really nervous so I recorded it on my phone. I was just doing a print piece so I didn’t have to worry about quality. She was LOVELY and really helpful and really patient so I am really happy about that. She also introduced me to the very handsome novelist and idea man Tom Pollock. They were doing a day-long experiment in storytelling, overseen by Glen Mehn and the Social Innovation Camp, assisted with 5 publishing professionals. Great stuff! I was able to sit in and be very awkward.

Shorthand. Oh my, what fun. We have to learn a version of shorthand called ‘teeline.’ It is like learning a new language. Last year the attendance at the shorthand class was poor and the results were low so this semester we have 6.5 hours of shorthand in the week. I’m enjoying it, it’s funny it’s so difficult. It’s a psycho-motor skill so apparently with practise it should become automatic. The gold standard is 100 words per minute and that’s ultimately what we are aiming for. We’re told most newspapers will not consider you for interview unless you have this level. We’re moving really fast through it- today we had a wee mini test and I think I did ok. I can read and make an attempt at writing some simple sentences so that’s something. Usually in class someone shouts out something that makes no sense, as a guess to what a symbol means. Also up until the last day or two the only geographical place we could write was ‘village’ so every example something was going down in the village. Much hilarity. Last year the park had to get shut down because there were too many accidents.

Eat your eggs at tea time. Teeline style.

Yesterday I did a current affairs ‘quiz’ that is sometimes used as an entrance exam for this course. I got 6 out of 17. Eek. I’ve been forcing myself to watch the news and try to read newspapers as much as possible. I know… but I’m hoping it comes with time and effort…

General worries: I’m going to run out of money. I’m comparing myself to others, and there’s some shining stars in my class. I didn’t like my 1st piece and there were endless amounts wrong with it.

The class are really lovely and friendly and mixed age-wise. It’s predominately male, but there’s 6 women, youngest 18 eldest 40-something. I have made a couple of friends already. People actually talked to me on the first day which I am eternally grateful for. Now I have a group I eat lunch with and the general banter in the rooms is super fun.

I’m pushed way out of my comfort zone. Court reporting, law and video journalism haven’t yet made their way on to the scene so there’s sure to be much grinding of teeth then. A rather pessimistic round up that I’m hoping I can look back and laugh at. It has provided much stress but also a lot of laughs and new friends and contacts.

Above all I have hope for this course and for me. I know I want to write and that journalism will increase my confidence in many areas and will ultimately allow me to make a difference. I think I’m on the right path, or at least doing the right direction.

Thanks for your continued support. I’ve spent ages tweaking and hopefully improving the blog tonight, so enjoy and let me know what you think.


Author: Fiona

7 thoughts on “Setting sail on the good/scary ship Journalism”

  1. What a wonderful post… setting sail with courage ie when only you know how afraid you really are! With creativity and with attention…your observations and your ability to describe them astound. So you chicken out the odd time and you cry, but then you ask, interview, get up again —- the definition of guts, the stuff of writing. As Virginia says (and what a great quote, I’ve never noticed it in her writing) ‘that is all that matters…nobody can say’

    Keep writing, I for one want to keep reading!

  2. Never compare yourself with others; be yourself, for yourself. Trite but entirely true! You are a wonderful writer, and your talent and passion will continue to shine.

  3. Good luck as you continue down this road!

    I’d love to learn to write like that; writing by hand tends to produce much better results for me. And yet . . . I’m not sure I’d like to invest the time. (The time saved is probably more than well worth it, that being said!)

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