RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: April 2013

Top Tips to Pass the Production Exam

It may not surprise you to know that I have an exam coming up. My blog posts always seem to coincide with impending exams, as blogging is one of my favourite methods of procrastination (along with tidying my room,  plucking my eyebrows, and doing just about anything that isn’t revision), but as always I’m attempting to justify it by making my exam the subject of this blog post.

Today, I’m sitting the NCTJ production exam. It’s an optional part of the NCTJ diploma, but with newsrooms cutting down on staff and expecting reporters to write, sub and lay up their own copy while simultaneously singing and juggling knives, it’s arguably one of the most important skills a trainee journalist can learn. It’s also one of the hardest exams to prepare for and pass.

So other than developing flawless spelling, punctuation and grammar (which, with less than an hour to go, may be an unattainable goal for me), what can you do to prepare for the production exam?

  1. Use an active verb in every headline. Errors in headlines are unforgivable, that goes without saying, but writing a headline without a verb is an error that many people make without thinking. If you really can’t get an active verb to fit a passive one will do, but the verb is vital.
  2. Headline content is more important than fitting. Ideally, you’ll have a headline that both  fits and sums up the story perfectly, but if that isn’t achievable then white space will lose you less marks than a headline that doesn’t capture the essence of the story. Never split a word over two lines though.
  3. Be consistent. If you use use single quotation marks for quotes in the middle of sentences, be consistent. If you refer to the people you’re quoting as Mr/Mrs/Miss Jones on the second mention, be consistent. If your listings headlines have the age rating in brackets, be consistent. Just be consistent.
  4. Look for mistakes everywhere. This applies to the proof-reading exercise. There will be mistakes in the headline, sub-headline, body copy, panels, pull quotes and captions. If a picture doesn’t have a caption, that’s an error.
  5. Watch your time. There’s no point in doing three sections of the exam perfectly, but missing out the final two. I was told to allocate 37 minutes to Section A, 15 minutes to Section B, 30 minutes to Section C, 15 minutes to Section D and 22 minutes to Section E, but you can make your own decisions based on how difficult you find each part.

 

The Great Job Hunt

With around two months to go until all teaching is finished, all exams are over and all assignments (bar the dreaded final project) are handed in, my thoughts have turned firmly to finding a job. This is for several reasons: I would like some money, I would like to move out of my childhood home and into a houseshare with my lovely friend who is getting rather tired of waiting for me to join her in London, and (perhaps most importantly of all) I do not want to write another dissertation.

At Kingston, we have two options for the final three months of our degree. We can write hefty 12,000 word dissertations, or we can get jobs and spread those 12,000 words between 4 smaller assignments, including a portfolio of published work. I wrote a dissertation during my final year at Durham. I chose my topic with care, loved reading about it and thinking about it, but then came the moment when I had to write it. I screamed, I cried, I bit my nails until I had no nails left, and I nearly had a nervous breakdown when my well-meaning friend asked to see the finished product the night before it was due. I’m not sure that I’d survive writing a second, even longer dissertation in a shorter period of time.

So that means the pressure is on to find a job, and fast. I’m in the middle of a three-week Easter break, but I’ve spent most of that trawling through various websites, tweaking and re-tweaking my CV and trying to write original cover letters (and I hate writing cover letters almost as much as I hated writing my dissertation). It’s hard work, but it’ll all be worth it when I get that letter from The Times demanding that I write for them (I sent my application at least three days ago, it must be due any day now).

For those of you in the same position as me, here are some of my favourite websites for finding journalism job opportunities. But be warned, if you get any of the jobs that I’m going for, I will find you and I will hurt you!

Gorkana: http://www.gorkanajobs.co.uk/

Journalism.co.uk: http://www.journalism.co.uk/media-reporter-jobs/s64/

Internwise: http://www.internwise.co.uk/

Media Muppet: http://mediamuppet.com/

Media Nation: http://www.medianation.co.uk/content/indiesdetail/Broadcast/Indies/362

Hold the Front Page: http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/

Think I’ve left a site out? Want to share your experience of job hunting? Please leave a comment below or contact me on julie.fisher@hotmail.co.uk.