How my NCTJ journalism training prepared me for covering the Grenfell Tower fire

Heading to the Grenfell Tower fire was my first time reporting from the scene of a national disaster, writes News Associates fast-track trainee Anna Schaverien.

Over the duration of the News Associates course we’d watched events unfold at Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge – and assessed the media’s coverage of them.

But turning the corner to see black smoke flooding out of the high-rise building just a few hundred metres away was a completely different experience.

There’s little to prepare you for how to deal with such a horrible sight, but knowing I had a task to focus on – and I had been taught the relevant skills to do it – was the reassurance I needed to take my first step.

Only ten minutes after I arrived on the scene, there were a couple of people crying and wailing around me, having heard bad news about friends and relatives. It was heart-breaking.

But knowing the IPSO Editors’ Code of Practice inside out gave me the guidance I needed on what would be crossing the line.

The rules on intrusion into shock and grief, privacy breaches, and harassment, went through my mind in every interaction I made.

Knowing the IPSO code also helped with the mobile journalism side of reporting from the fire.

Everyone with a phone in their pocket can now be a citizen journalist, but knowing how to share images and videos responsibly, and when a photo is best left unpublished, is the mark of a qualified journalist.

I was also thankful for all that time spent in shorthand classes, as I interviewed more than 30 people throughout the day.

It’s a skill that took a lot of work, but until you’re in a time-pressured situation like this, you don’t realise how useful it is.

It was crucial to be able to accurately take down everything a person said, read it back at a glance, and send it back to my editor almost immediately.

Speed and accuracy are equally important in journalism – and using shorthand gives you both.

The day covering Grenfell Tower was incredibly difficult to handle. As a journalist reporting from the scene, you can’t help but be affected by who you meet, who you speak to, and what you see.

But what got me through the day was seeing the amazing community response, and knowing that by doing my job well and shining a spotlight on it, I could play my part and help in some small way.