NCTJ Production Journalism exam

Last Thursday I took my NCTJ Production Journalism exam. I’m studying for the NCTJ Diploma via distance learning, and after putting my studying on hold while at drama school, I recently decided to pick up where I left off. The Production Journalism unit is one of my two optional units, the other being Business of Magazines, and it teaches you the principles and practice of sub-editing.

As a distance learning student living in Putney, I sat my exam at the nearest centre offering that unit, which was Lambeth College. The exam lasted 2 1/2 hours, which I thought would drag terribly, but once I’d got stuck in to the tasks it flew by and I had to step up my rather relaxed pace in order to give myself some checking everything over time at the end!

JR-Production-Journalism-cswk3

While I was preparing for the exam I re-familiarised myself with Indesign by creating some mock magazine spreads. You can see one of the pages I created above, using text from previous blog posts. Unfortunately you can’t see the edges of the page in the jpeg, so it looks like there’s a hell of a lot of white space!

Considerations when creating this spread included:

Fonts/typography: I used a serif font for the main headings and subheadings and a sans serif font for the main body text. I think a sans serif font is easier to read for features, though many magazines do use a serif font for the main body text and sans serif for the headings.

Use of colour: I chose one of the colours in the image (the girl’s cropped trousers) and tried to find a colour similar to this for the main title, subheadings and pull-out quotes. I also used the same colour but knocked back to about 40 per cent for the border around the review. By doing this I hoped to create a theme for the colours so they worked in harmony across the spread.

Breaking up the page: The unit teaches you the importance of breaking up a page to keep the reader’s interest, so I tried to do this by using pull-out quotes, subheadings, placing the image appropriately and laying out the review slightly differently to the main article (placing a white text box on to a coloured box and laying the text out in just one column rather than two).

My practice spread has a very clean and simple layout, which I do like to see in magazines, but I have also come across some rather busy-looking spreads that I love, mainly because of the harmony of the colours, beautiful designs and illustrations, and the skill of the sub in ensuring everything is still clear.

Below are some of my favourite magazines in terms of layout and design (click on the name of each to go to their respective websites – unfortunately the websites don’t always give you a good idea of the hard copy magazines so I would of course encourage you to pick up a printed copy if you can):

Oh Comely magazine

Aesthetica magazine

Elle Decoration

Little White Lies

Please feel free to comment below and share your favourite magazine layouts!

 

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