97 journalists pass senior reporter test

The NCTJ National Certificate Examination in March had a pass rate of 52 per cent.

In the news report section of the exam candidates' shorthand and news writing ability was tested by asking them to report on a speech given by a fictional union official Chris Turner following an airline industrial dispute.

The senior examiner for this section said in their exam report: "The News Report featured one of the most topical stories on the current news agenda, so there was no excuse for candidates who did not understand the scenario.

"While British Airways was embroiled in a national dispute which affected flights worldwide, NCTJ candidates were dealing with UK Airways threatening industrial action over the same period at Hamber Airport.

"It was disappointing to examiners to find that a number of candidates had little knowledge of industrial affairs and produced stories saying UK Airways staff were 'going on strike' or would be 'walking out' on 29 March. This was not what the union said its members would be doing - they would be working to rule, which is something completely different, and claiming overtime which was owed to them.

"However, it was not all doom and gloom in the news report section. There were some very impressive comprehensive reports which were a delight to mark."

The news interview section centred on a family who were speaking out after the inquest of 19-year-old Dawn Brannigan who had died of a heroin overdose on New Year's Eve. Candidates were asked to interview the cousin of Dawn's mother to discover details of Dawn's death which were not revealed at the inquest and to uncover a story about an anti-drugs campaign planned by the family.

The senior examiner for the news report said: "The family were keen to show that Dawn was not 'a sad, lonely drug addict' but 'a party girl who dabbled in drugs'. Candidates needed to include this line in their story but the best angle focused on what the family was going to do in getting across an anti-drugs message."

"As usual, examiners were looking for candidates who had taken more than a superficial interest in the story and written an engaging article with a strong intro using dynamic verbs and adjectives, an early key quote followed by a well-organised story that included a mix of accurate quotes and reported speech.

"Inappropriate or ineffective use of quotes - no matter how well-selected - went unrewarded, or even penalised. However, candidates who used quotes to add pace and rhythm to their stories received extra marks."

NCE award winners

Four journalists taking the March NCE exams were awarded for their outstanding performance with £250 prizes from the NCTJ.

Robert Garret of the Eastern Daily Press won the prize for the news interview section of the exam. He said: "I remember leaving the NCE with an impending sense of gloom because I thought I had left some details out, so I'm surprised."

The Esso award for outstanding news reporting was won by Timothy Sculthorpe of the Scunthorpe Telegraph.

The moderator said: "His report had a strong introduction, good pace and an entertaining style which clearly conveyed the story to the reader".

The Ted Bottomley award for outstanding newspaper practice paper was won by Adam Cornell of the Maldon & Burnham Standard.

Adam said: "I sat a law degree before I decided to become a journalist, so I have always been interested in the law and its application. But I had to learn how to answer legal questions as a journalist, using and needing the law on a daily basis, rather than in-depth as a lawyer."

The Newsquest award for outstanding logbook was won by Matt Meade of the Dunfermline Press.

Matt said: "Working at the Dunfermline Press has given me a wide range of stories to cover, from court to sport and I'm very grateful for that."

Dominic Ponsford is editor of Press Gazette.