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September 7, 2015

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Posted By: paulajw
Posted On: June 29, 2015

Brighton Journalist Works graduate Della Cheshire on her first day

Nine months after starting her NCTJ diploma at Brighton Journalist Works, Della Cheshire is a gold-standard graduate.

Della started on the part-time weekend and evening course in September 2014 with help from the Journalism Diversity Fund. 

She kept up a weekly blog describing her journey and in the final installment reflects on her experience and shares her tips for  gold standard glory:

Brighton Journalist Works graduate Della Cheshire on her first day

Brighton Journalist Works graduate Della Cheshire on her first day

It’s done.

Even though I got the results for the final component, my portfolio, several days ago, I still can’t quite believe it.

What have I done?

Ten months, 35 blog posts, 23 bylines, two work experience placements, a brief stint as assistant manager of a community magazine & website and a smattering of stress, tears and laughter later, I’m really pleased with my results:

  • News Reporting: A (73%)
  • Multimedia Portfolio for Journalists: A (72%)
  • Essential Public Affairs for Journalists: A (92%)
  • Essential Media Law for Journalists: A (70%)
  • Media Law Court Reporting: A (74%)
  • Production Journalism: B (66%)
  • Teeline shorthand: 100wpm, 80wpm & 60wpm

And because as a trained and experienced proofreader, my Production Journalism result grated, I paid for an exam report and now know exactly why I missed out on an A.

Note to self – make sure the rule frame is clearly showing on all four sides of the picture in InDesign.

And make sure all your headlines don’t just fit the space, but fit the whole story.

How have I done it?

With determination, dedication, a very forgiving husband and the backing of two organisations.

Firstly, the Journalism Diversity Fund (JDF), which paid for my course, some course books and some travel expenses.

They also gave me the confidence to get out there and just do it.

Just after I discovered that I’d been shortlisted for a JDF bursary, I learnt of a fire that had broken out in an electricity substation near my home.

And I covered it – interviewed witnesses, took photos, spoke to the emergency services on scene – submitted it to The Argus and got a joint byline and a glowing reference to take with me to the JDF interview.

Would I have had the courage to be more than just a bystander without the shortlisting?

Probably not.

Then actually being awarded a JDF bursary felt like an endorsement – we have faith, so should you.

So when I spotted Pavilion Gardens cordoned off just two weeks into the course, I had no hesitation in getting off the bus at the next stop and wading in there too.

Secondly, Brighton Journalist Works, whose brilliant staff helped to hone my journalistic skills, and gave me constructive criticism, advice and support.

Tracy, Roxanne, Louisa, Pete and especially Sarah, I couldn’t have taught the course better myself – and as an experienced teacher, I should know.

What shall I do next?

Well, what I have already done is moved.

From bustling Brighton on the south coast of England, bursting with a variety of media outlets and easily accessible to London, to a cottage a mile and a half from a small village on the west coast of Scotland.

On an island.

That’s off another island.

There is a monthly e-newsletter, and a noticeboard outside the village shop that’s updated almost daily.

And a rather intriguing news project that I’ve already put my name down for.

And the UK’s only employee-owned newspaper, the West Highland Free Press(WHFP), is just down the road on that other island.

Plus, with the internet, journalism should be possible from just about anywhere.

If only Scottish and Southern Electric would connect us to the world-wide web.

Much as I enjoy the frothy cappuccinos at Raasay House, I was hoping to work from home, in a shed that’s on its way to falling down but does currently have a roof and a remarkable view.

So, once SSE has flicked the switch, my plan is fourfold:

  1. Submit entries in four categories for the NCTJ Awards of Excellence – Top Scoop, News Journalism, Features and Best Student Project (for this very blog) – as suggested by one of my tutors
  2. Get more work experience under my belt, hopefully at the WHFP and The Ferret
  3. Write up the features I’ve already researched, and the news stories I’ve recently got wind of, and work out which outlets to submit them to
  4. Seek commissions and /or a part-time home-based role as a journalist, editor, sub-editor, photographer, proofreader or media trainer – see my rates and references.

My advice for anyone thinking of doing the NCTJ

It’s hard work, and you’ll get out of it what you put it, so

  • set aside as much time as possible
  • get writing and
  • just do it.

You could, as a journalist, make a positive difference in the world.

Which is what I’m intending to do.

Just watch me.