The Times’ prestigious reporter graduate trainee scheme is open again, with applications for the two-year scheme closing on December 15.
Fresh out of university and fancy yourself as the next great reporter at the paper of record? Well, let us break it down for you.
Don’t know what a paper of record is? Neither did we until we edited this article. Here’s what it means.
We’ve spoken to a range of people about what it takes to get on the scheme – including people who got to interview and ones who made the full distance.
If you’ve completed or applied for the scheme and want to share your wisdom, please do get in touch with us. We’re always looking for more insight – and we’d be eternally grateful for your support.
The scheme currently on offer is a two-year comprehensive training scheme for news reporters, but the paper does also run a subbing scheme and a picture scheme, and we’ll be putting together a guide on them shortly – you’ll find it here when we do.
Back to the news scheme though – it includes formal training followed by various placements to help you find your way after it’s all over.
The first part of the scheme is formal, and you’ll be based at News Associates in Twickenham. They’ve been the UK’s best NCTJ training course for five years in a row now, and they’re a Journo Resources partner. So, to cut a long story short, you’re in good hands.
The results are in… News Associates is officially the number one @NCTJ_news journalism school for the fifth straight year! 🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇
— News Associates (@NewsAssociates) November 28, 2019
This part of the scheme brings your training into line with many journalists at the first stages of their careers and provides a great base to kick off from during your placements.
It’s a bespoke course that they say focuses on the “practical issues reporters face every day in a busy newsroom” and aims to “expose you to many scenarios you’ll come across when reporting for The Times”.
The “bootcamp” lasted for three weeks last year, and there are also regular refresher sessions once you’re actually working in the newsroom.
After you’ve nailed the baseline training, that’s when the real fun begins. You’ll undertake a series of placements across The Times, with the aim being to build your skills and find your niche.
You’ll take on digital, business, home news, and Scotland for your placements, with the latter based in Glasgow. The rest of them will be at News UK’s swanky London Bridge building – also known as the mini-shard.
You’ll get a significant level of responsibility as a reporter in Scotland, and, according to the people we spoke too, it is one of the highlights of the scheme.
Normally you’ll take the home news placement last, as by that time you’ll have a huge breadth of experience under your belt when you arrive.
After it’s over, the majority of graduates bag a permanent jobs at the paper, but don’t fret – the scheme gives you all the training to forge a career as a news reporter wherever you want.
And finally, a note on pay. You’ll be contracted at about £25,000pa for the two-year period and you’ll also get access to private health insurance and other News UK amenities.
The Application Process
The application itself is fairly boilerplate, with the three core elements being a CV, a covering letter of about 500 words, and a three-piece portfolio. Worth noting that they stress you should send full pieces rather than hyperlinks.
They want you to show real passion and aptitude for news reporting, so best leave your match reports and Brexit comment pieces to the side for this one. If you succeed at this, you’ll go to an assessment centre.
Emma Yeomans, an alumna of the scheme, broke down the three key elements:
- A mix of interviews
- A news test
- Some story-based exercises
This centre can be gruelling and it is clear that they want some level of experience expressed on your CV – but don’t be afraid to show the experience you’ve got from student or local publications.
How a London company built a global web of banks, businesses and tax havens used by fraudsters and organised criminals: read the first part of our investigation in tomorrow’s Times. https://t.co/abpcfsJY8X
— Emma Yeomans (@Effy_Yeomans) December 3, 2019
We also spoke to Kimberly Long, now an editor for The Banker, who also interviewed for the scheme several years ago. She recalls being asked to send suggestions for improving The Times’ coverage ahead of the interview, with the note stressing people shouldn’t “waste space paying compliments, we are interested in faults you can identify.”
“The main thing I remember about it was I got the interview because I wrote the most ridiculous cover letter,” she tells Journo Resources. “I basically said ‘here’s my CV for academic information and here’s a list of facts about me we can discuss at the interview.
“I included stuff like the fact that I loved baking and might bring treats to the office, and that I lived in Japan for a year before my MA.
“I also wrote in that my parents had left school before their GCSEs and that I wanted to become a journalist to give people a voice. At the interview they explicitly asked me who had told me to write a letter like that because they’d never had anything like it before.”
She also remembers being asked practical questions, for example how to deal with doorstepping, and stressed that it wasn’t an intimidating experience.
After the assessment centre, you’ll find out whether you’ve got onto the scheme ahead of the September start date.
Overall, they’re most keen to see that you’re a good news reporter – but that’s not the only thing they’re interested in.
“Beyond that, showing that you’re adaptable and hard-working is helpful,” Emma told Journo Resources, ” and don’t neglect writing skills. They’re very important.”