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My questions are about freelance writers/ investigators working for a major newspaper.

My character, Jim, is a newbie (god help him) freelance journalist. He gets an assignment to investigate drug arrests at a city sponsored summer camp - part of a story about malfeasance in city contracts that is being written by a staff journalist, just an angle that no one thinks will amount to much but may provide important anecdotal evidence. His contract with the paper states the extent and limits of what he is hired to investigate but he learns much more than was expected and is able to expose fraud which is both relevant and important to main story but out of the scope of his contract. The staff reporter, a relative big shot, wants to take over the story and follow up investigation. Jim will only be credited as a contributor to the first piece, even though what he uncovered will become a much bigger part of that story. 

However, Jim discovers another unrelated story at the camp that is much bigger still and he wants that story for himself. The problem is the first story will set up an adversarial situation for him at the camp and an obstacle to further investigation.  So, he doesn't want his name to appear in the by-line or even as a contributor to the original story and wants to make it look like he got screwed by the paper, which to some extent is true and he is pissed about that. Both the paper and the city/ camp are demanding his research documents and he gives it to the city to complete his ruse. He is burning a bridge with the paper but figures with the new story he can repair that damage later. His presence at the camp is explained by his disillusionment with his new profession and his new friendship with the caretaker at the camp and that he has rented a summer cabin in the area where he can think about his future options, maybe outside of journalism.

My basic question is whether or not this is a plausible scenario.

1. Is it possible or routine for a journalist to be hired just as an investigator but not as a writer to contribute information to a story written by someone else?

2. Who has the rights to Jim's research documents. Is Jim obligated to turn everything over to the newspaper? Can the city make a claim that he was not authorized to access the documents and that they remain city property -that he must turn them over to the city or face a law suit? And even if that is a bluff would it provide Jim the cover to not give the documents to the paper?
You  don't need an NCTJ to get a job in journalism. B2B magazines do not require the qualification, and many of them pay well. Their requirement is that you can write, that you know the core journalism skills, and that you are prepared to learn the business you are writing about.
An NCTJ is said to be required for newspaper journalism, but not all successful newspaper journalists have had the qualification. Jobs on papers vary: you can have an NCTJ and get a low paid reporters' job; you can not have an NCTJ, but be gifted and have contacts, impress the relevant editor and land a job (maybe well paid, maybe a start out salary that, if you do well, will increase).
I am not sure how you would learn how to do court reportinng (UK side) if you did not have an NCTJ.
Personally, I always find trained journalists a bit sharper and faster than non-trained journalists.
If you are serious about journalism for your career (next 10-20 years) and you know you love working on newspapers, and in newspaper offices, then it might be worth investing some time and money.
A possible way to do it is: get a job on your local paper, and take the NCTJ while working there.
All the best!

General discussion / Current events - Journalism
« Last post by gliesian on April 09, 2014, 06:30:06 PM »
If you are producing current events material through journalism, please feel free to link your material from our new beta news site: it's map driven and you can use the online form to easily add a link to your material.

Yes, you need the NCTJ diploma as well. It's the must-have qualification. You will find it difficult to get a job interview without it.

The diploma is journalism's gold standard qualification: the industry benchmark for a multimedia journalist.

Editors know exactly what they’re getting with an NCTJ-qualified job applicant and often prefer them. We offer a whole range of distance learning NCTJ courses: see
Hi my names Jennifer. I'm currently studying my A levels at a sixth form in Manchester. I am extremely interested in journalism and currently searching for some work experience. I am attending three festivals this year, I have also been to a few in the past and I would love to write for you.
Journalism students / Re: Blog contributors need for Backing British website
« Last post by BenFranks on April 01, 2014, 09:40:41 PM »
You'll notice even though not many people make replies, it does get huge amounts of views from journalists. A lot of people who use this forum well will drop a personal contact, which is how most of us interact.

It's good to bump up replies, etc., but in a forum like this we don't want any rubbish!
General discussion / Re: The Guardian's Punctuation of Height and Weight
« Last post by isaaccallan on April 01, 2014, 07:31:36 PM »
Personally I like the "ft" "in" "lb" "oz", they are traditional and almost comfortingly British, like tea and scones. God knows why I feel that way. But know, because, as Ben says, they are already abbreviations, the plural is implicit. Plus, 1 foot condenses to 1 ft, 2 feet also condenses to 2 ft, so there would be no 's' there anyway.
Freelance journalists / Hovercraft Opportunity
« Last post by Hov Pod on April 01, 2014, 04:33:21 PM »
Our company manufactures hovercraft, for leisure, commercial, rescue, survey and patrol applications. Despite the fact that many people think hovercraft died out in the 1970’s there are many applications; hovercraft can fly over any flat surface. We offer opportunities to freelance journalists who can help us raise awareness, compensation is by commission through a system we have developed.  If you would like more details, please contact us via
An invoice is a receipt of how much they are going to pay you, they have tried to rip you off. What was the magazine?
Thank you very much for the advice everybody, I will certainly look into starting to learn it over the summer holidays.
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