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John Holden studied the Fast-Track NCTJ Journalism Diploma in September 2017 with Brighton Journalist Works. He has just finished the course and shares his journey…

Before Brighton Journalist Works, I’d stagnated. I’d started university in 2009 wanting to be a journalist but things just kept getting in the way – a desperate refusal to let go of the student dream, six months in New Zealand and a ‘steady’ job that sucked the life out of me for two years.

Mid-2017 I took the plunge, quit my job to work on a farm outside Manchester and applied for the fast-track course at BJW. I enjoyed writing, liked being left to my own devices and was a depraved voyeur, so I knew journalism was for me, but I didn’t know exactly what strand of journalism to go into. My plan was to throw myself into BJW and let the current take me wherever.

The most positive part of my BJW experience was the fact that you’re not pigeonholed. I found the focus was on building a solid foundation of the essentials – how to find a story, how to tell a story and how to not get sued. Of course you learn how to bash out a formulaic news story at breakneck speed, but you also learn how to write features and reviews, all grounded in the basics of interviews, research and finding your angle. Being designated a ‘patch’ was also invaluable, in terms of having a focus for the portfolio and preparing for life as a reporter.

Shorthand is a war of attrition, no two ways about it. I found by accepting that for 12 weeks my mornings were not my own, they were shorthand’s, the incremental progress was actually quite satisfying. It also fractured my psyche to the point that I now spell out everything in shorthand in my head. I’d call that a success.

All of the tutors were genuinely great, and that’s from a 26-year-old who still has a teenage ‘us vs. them’ mentality towards teachers. It’s a disservice to even describe them as ‘approachable’ because that suggests you have to go to them – they are simply always there, whenever. Lessons were peppered with anecdotes from tutors who are still working journalists, giving practical advice that’s relevant today, not 20 years ago. I have no doubt they’ll continue to support me now that I’ve graduated and my cheque’s cleared.

In terms of course mates, we varied in age, experience and personality but were joined by the fact that we had all made the decision to come to BJW and pursue a career in journalism. That’s quite a rare piece of cloth from which to be cut so finding like-minded individuals was no difficulty.

Overall, the big move south to BJW and the beginning of a new career path was an excellent decision. Now I’ve started the arduous job application process, being able to confidently respond to job specifications without the need for lies is a novel experience. BJW has equipped me with all the tools I need for a career in journalism and I can’t wait to get started.

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