Alan Geere, editor-in-chief of the Essex Chronicle Media Group and editorial director of Northcliffe Media South East, has blogged about his methods of recruiting journalists - which he describes as "The Apprentice meets X Factor".
Alan talks to trainees on NCTJ courses and sets potential candidates an assignment. "Find a story for a specially devised publication and write it up. In that hour I can see if the ‘driven, ambitious and motivated’ applicant on the CV can actually talk to people, find an angle, write an intro that makes sense, construct a sentence and make a deadline. And you’d be surprised how many can’t...
"With my sidekick Deanne Blaylock, editor of the Surrey Mirror Series and a perfect Margaret/Karren to my Sir Alan, we tease out the how, the why and the where of the stories and work out whether these people have got any chance in journalism.
"Key for me, though, is the ability to engage with people. All the doom-mongers for journalism in general and newspapers in particular seem to have forgotten that finding people and getting them to talk to you is at the heart of it."
Alan doesn't support the argument, put forward by Aberdeen Press and Journal editor Derek Tucker, at the Society of Editors conference, that the industry should take back the training of journalists from academics.
He says: "The trainees I see are trained to the highest standard by people who know and care. I don’t have the capacity or capability to teach shorthand to 100 wpm in 16 weeks or give a thorough grounding in media law or public affairs. I’ll leave that to the experts, thanks, Derek.
"What I can offer, though, is a step on the first rung of a ladder that has taken the likes of Derek and me into a rewarding, unpredictable, at times frustrating yet always fascinating career. And I want to do my bit to keep that flame alive."
This week Alan is meeting trainees in Newcastle and Brighton.