Back to class — to learn journalism?

By the time I had been a journalist for almost three years I was sent back to the classroom — at least it was at a college and not going back to school.

The National Council for the Training of Journalists (it does what it says on the tin) had initially decreed trainee journalists should spend one day a week at college studying the basics of journalism.

This was changed by 1969 and it was decided an eight-week block release course, followed by a year back at the office and then a second eight-week course, was the better way to go.

To my mind they were right.

I would probably have gone on the first block release earlier if it had not been for the changeover in the newspaper I worked for.

Didn’t make that much difference because although I was not the oldest on that first autumn course at the Cardiff College of Food Technology and Commerce (that’s right journalism was lumped in with trainee chefs and office workers) I was one of the most experienced.

There were about 20 of us on the course, more male than female (but not by much) and ages ranged from 17 to 21/22.

On that first morning we had a “getting to know you” session with the course tutor.

It started with saying where we were from – most of the students were from Wales with a few from border counties.

Then she went into the routine of finding out how experienced we were.

“Those who have done parish rounds?”

All hands up.

“Emergency service calls?”

All hands up.

“Council meetings?”

Not quite so many.


Even less.

This continued until she had run the gamut of inquests; major emergency stories; behind the scenes features; etc. etc.

By this time the only hands up were mine and one of the older trainee reporters (who, it turned out later, was the son of two journalists and grandson of an old-time editor/proprietor).

When we had a chat after the first tutorial we discovered we had both had experiences the other had not but this was mainly based on the differences between an urban newspaper and a rural/seaside newspaper (the two I had worked on).

The remainder of the day was mainly based on meeting other tutors covering the range of subjects we would study:

Newspaper practice;

Newspaper law;

Local government;



I think that covers it all but some of the subjects may have overlapped.

As I said, the group was a mixed bag both in age and experience. A couple of them had no more than six months probationary period and even the older ones had gone through sixth form and one was ex-university.

At the end of the first day some of us did what so many journalists did at that period – we repaired to a nearby pub.

Some of the younger ones declined the invite and said they wanted to study the assigned books and prepare for the next day.

As I had been put in a B&B for the duration I ordered a pub meal as did some of the others.

The drinks got us all chatting and before long it was as though we had known each other for years and it was getting on for 10pm before we went our separate ways.

The following day the work began – but beforehand there was an amusing incident as we all arrived just before 9am to enter our classroom.

We had noticed other young students around on their way to cookery classes or typing but in the corridor outside our room we passed a group of youngsters who stopped chattering as we passed and just stared at us in either amazement or admiration.

Once we were all in and the door closed one of our number asked our course tutor who the youngsters were.

It turned out they were the first members of a pre-entry journalism course and apparently had been looking forward to seeing “real journalists”.

It certainly amused us and someone asked if they had expected us to be wearing raincoats and trilbies with PRESS cards in our hatbands.

The pre-entry group were in a room on the same corridor and various groups of them were outside our room when we arrived or left for the first two weeks.

The idea of being put on a pedestal appealed to some of our group. Naturally I was unaffected — honest.

After that first day of settling in we got stuck in to some hard work.

The next eight weeks were hectic but good fun at the same time.

Next time: Learning a new “language” and a night at the casino.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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