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JTO unveils new strategy

The JTO will move next door to Level 2 of Newspaper House, 93 Boulcott St , Wellington, this month and take an office next door to the Newspaper Publishers Association. The move returns the JTO to its original location. The NPA will take over some administrative functions. The move will make considerable savings for the JTO, which had been operating in the red for some time.

New executive director Jim Tucker said the relocation and reorganisation would put the JTO on a much sounder financial footing and enable it to undertake the initiatives in the strategic plan.

For example, the unit standards - core guidelines for the training of all new journalists - were long overdue for revision, but the organisation had had insufficient funds to complete the process of rewriting and re-listing them on the NZQA's national qualifications framework.

Similarly, the JTO had been unable to afford research into key training issues, such as lack of education in civic knowledge, history, literacy and numeracy among the majority of school leavers applying for journalism programmes.

It had not been able to continue publishing Noted, which was one of the few forums available for the discussion of journalism and news media issues. He had plans to develop the JTO's newly re-designed website into an electronic version of Noted, as well as a place for listing and finding journalism jobs.

One of the plan's key strategies is a new model for training aimed at addressing one of the most serious problems facing the media industry - lack of on-the-job training for new entrants. This was mentioned by nearly everyone he talked to during a two-month consultation process undertaken in April and May, shortly after he started the job.

"By and large, journalism graduates are getting a good grounding from the tertiary institutions, but after that it's a matter of luck whether they find mentors to help them develop any further," Tucker told this month's JTO council meeting.

The new model offers newcomers to journalism a year of formal on-site training overseen by in-house trainers. The scheme will be formulated in consultation with the Tertiary Education Commission, which makes funding available for such training through industry training organisations.

The JTO has been on notice for the past two years that it must conform to the TEC's requirements for ITOs or face deregistration as one. The JTO council agreed that meeting the TEC's prescription should be the organisation's top priority.

The new training model includes a third stage (after a tertiary programme and the year of on-site training) during which the journalist would undertake on-line study at a tertiary institution for a Bachelor of Journalism.

"We're one of the only developed countries that has no clearly defined, undergraduate degree in journalism, a Bachelor of Journalism," the executive director said. The model, if developed, would enable a journalist to build on his or her diploma-level qualification and obtain a degree without having to leave the job.

Beyond undergraduate level, the model includes plans for a Master of Journalism, something that is also absent from university and technical institute programmes in New Zealand. This could be developed in conjunction with universities here or overseas. It would aim to fill existing gaps in journalism higher learning and could include strands in management, with the aim of educating the editors and newsroom managers of the future.

The meeting agreed it was time to consider the promotion of journalism as an exciting and rewarding career. Young people up to the age of 12 say it's their number one choice, according to a survey last year, but after that it disappears from their top-20 options. The strategic plan includes an objective to find ways to promote journalism in schools and among people looking for a change of career.

Journalists Training Organisation