Elective options

Study for the Diploma in Journalism is based on a core and options model.

The following specialist elective units are available to study: public affairs; shorthand (double unit); media law court reporting; sports journalism; videojournalism for online; business of magazines; production journalism; broadcast journalism (double unit); PR and communications for journalists (double unit); and business and finance journalism.

The elective options are designed to allow learners’ choice and to build the diploma qualification that will help you further your career in journalism. You will complete at least three units as well as the mandatory units to gain the Diploma in Journalism.

Broadcast journalism

This double module covers the additional skills required to operate effectively as a broadcast journalist in television and radio. Trainees will learn how to research, write and produce high-quality reports for radio and television. It will also instil a degree of familiarity with the technology, techniques, language and regulation of broadcast journalism and teach some practical skills. It should reflect the best current practice in broadcast newsrooms in the UK.

The aim of the broadcast journalism assessment is to ensure trainee broadcast journalists:

  • can research and write clear, accurate, compliant and engaging stories for radio and television
  • understand the techniques of interviewing for broadcast and can conduct a simple broadcast interview themselves
  • can demonstrate familiarity with the basic techniques and technology of broadcast newsgathering, including the sourcing of material
  • have an awareness of the basic set-up of radio and television news studios and can operate simple radio and television equipment
  • can show a good working knowledge of the key principles of broadcast regulation as laid out in the Ofcom Broadcasting Code

are familiar with the language and terminology of a broadcast newsroom In writing, good grammar, spelling and punctuation are expected

Work will be legally sound and comply with broadcast regulation. The programme of study covers: writing for broadcast; voice training; interviewing; newsgathering and digital media; broadcast production techniques including editing and graphics; broadcast regulation; the language and terminology of broadcasting; and how news is consumed.

Candidates are required to submit one piece of coursework, take two practical, timed tests and sit a one-hour broadcast regulation exam.

Business and finance journalism

The business and finance option takes the principles of general news reporting covered in the reporting syllabus and applies them to the full range of business and finance reporting. It ensures candidates can produce the different types of story for all platforms required from each part of the business and finance news discipline.

Business and finance reporters need excellent contacts to break exclusive stories, be able to write attention-grabbing features, analytical features and interview major business and finance figures. Live, breaking news is an important element of reporting in this sector with a need to file copy in a series of “takes” for various platforms as the story unfolds. At press conferences, it is important to be able to challenge any business and finance changes to explore how this will affect, staff, unions and the public.

This module equips candidates with sufficient understanding of both domestic and international politics and economics to be able to report on a wide range of issues relating to business and finance, and to do so with the ability to humanise complex subjects, making them accessible to a general audience. Business and finance journalism focuses on all the macro areas of the discipline, such as the history, background and current state of the global banking and financial crisis. But it also introduces candidates to the coverage of the subject at a very micro level. A thorough knowledge of business and finance organisations is also tested.

Candidates will sit a two-part business and finance journalism examination: part one is a live business/finance report based on a scenario emerging and part two is a written exam.

Business of magazines

This option is designed to give trainees a thorough understanding of the magazine industry and how magazines work.

The programme of study includes: the roles of B2B, general consumer and specialist consumer magazines; the importance of identifying and writing for an audience; company accounts; the roles of editorial, marketing, advertising and other departments; revenue streams; editorial strategy; and means of distribution.

Assessment is by examination in which candidates answer questions covering the full syllabus.

Media law: court reporting

The specialist court reporting option builds on an introduction to court reporting in the essential media law syllabus. It covers court reporting restrictions, regulatory and ethical considerations. It is an important option for those who wish to focus on hard news for any platform as courts remain an excellent source for stories.

Assessment is by one examination which assesses knowledge and application of media law related to court reporting.

Photography for journalists

The photography specialist option is designed to equip a trainee journalist with the photography skills required to produce images of publishable quality that meet industry standards.

Candidates will be able to:

  • demonstrate skills, knowledge and understanding of the theory and practice of stills photography
  • gain practical skills in image capture on still digital formats and the transmission of stills
  • be competent in producing stills for publication • demonstrate the ability to write clear and accurate captions and news stories
  • understand photographic practice and media law and ethics relating to the publication of images from both professional photographers, citizen journalists and other external sources in newspapers, magazines and on related websites

Assessment is by a portfolio of images including a 150-200 word news story and evidence of any ethical and legal considerations when taking or publishing the images.

Candidates opting to take this unit are also encouraged to take videojournalism for online. Video skills are vital to be able to create distinctive videojournalism which is accurate, clear and communicative and compliments the skills gained in stills photography in this unit.

PR and communications for journalists

The PR and communications elective option is available to candidates alongside the mandatory subjects of the entry-level NCTJ Diploma in Journalism.

This programme of study will enable trainee journalists to understand the objectives, strategies and tactics employed by PR staff with whom they will come into contact. It can also prepare them to work at a junior level in public relations.

Candidates are assessed by a two-part exam over two and a half hours.

Production journalism

This specialist editing option builds on the introduction to editing in the reporting syllabus. Production journalism is becoming an even more important skill as journalists are publishing stories without the luxury of copy being checked. The culture of getting it right first time needs to be instilled into trainees.

The programme of study includes: desktop publishing, editing different types of stories; headline writing; typography; pictures and captions; proof reading; and design.

Candidates sit an on-screen editing exam for a templated page and must produce online headlines, edit a selection of stories and nibs, write a sell-on and demonstrate the ability to crop and edit a picture story.

Public affairs

All professional journalists should have a broad understanding of how government works at a local and national level, how they link together, where news stories come from and how to develop such stories.

Public affairs learning should be integrated with practical journalism and trainees must have an awareness of current news issues related to public affairs.

There are three different programmes of study and examinations for England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Candidates are required to sit an exam which assesses their knowledge of public affairs and its practical application to the job of a journalist.


Shorthand is an extremely valuable skill for the competent journalist. The NCTJ’s gold standard is to achieve at least 100 words per minute (wpm) and to be able to identify a newsworthy quote. The exam format for higher speeds has been developed to test listening skills as well as accuracy and speed.

The syllabus enables learners to acquire the skills required for reporting accurately using Teeline, an industry-recognised system of shorthand. The exams test the ability to take down the spoken word verbatim at a range of speeds – 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110 and 120 wpm – and to produce an accurate transcript within an error tolerance of three per cent. In addition, trainees must identify and accurately transcribe a key quote at speeds of 90 to 120wpm.

Sports journalism

The sports journalism option takes the principles of general news reporting covered in reporting and applies them to the full range of sports reporting skills.

The programme of study includes: an introduction to sports reporting; the sports news cycle; press conferences and interviewing; sports news, sports public affairs and sports politics; sports features; and editing sports stories.

The exam is divided into two parts. For part one, candidates will watch a football match and produce a match report filing 250 words within five minutes of the final whistle. Candidates will then have a further 30 minutes to produce a 200-word ‘reaction piece’ using quotes and tweets from managers and/or players/fans, supplied to them at the final whistle. For part two, candidates write a 200-word round-up, answer a sports interview question and write a story for the web from a press release.

Videojournalism for online

The videojournalism option is designed to enable trainees to produce short, focused video news reports for use online on news websites and understand how to use the platform effectively. Creativity is encouraged but work should be to industry standards.

The four study units cover: equipment and techniques; videojournalism and news gathering; interviewing; and regulation and compliance.

Candidates sit a two hour video-editing examination which assesses their basic editing and reporting skills and ability to drive traffic to a news website using video through social media. They are also required to submit a coursework assignment at the exam, which assesses their basic ability to create a video package and demonstrate how they would use it to drive traffic to a news website.