97 journalists achieve senior status in a topical NCE

97 journalists were successful in a topical National Certificate Examination for reporters which called for candidates to write a news report on planned industrial action by airline staff.

186 candidates sat the NCE on Friday 5 March at 15 centres across the country. The certificate was awarded to candidates who achieved success in all four areas: News Interview; News Report; Newspaper Practice and Logbook.

The pass rate for the March NCE was 52 per cent, broadly in line with previous NCE pass rates in November 2009 (51 per cent), July 2009 (48 per cent) and March 2009 (49 per cent).

The chief examiner said there were some excellent news stories and newspaper practice answers in all four sections and congratulated candidates for their achievement.

In the News Report examination 99 out of 166 candidates were successful – a pass rate of 60 per cent.

In the exam, talks had broken down between UK Airways management and the Union of Cabin Crew and Airport Ground Staff at 3am. Candidates had to report on a speech by the union’s national officer Chris Turner in which he outlined the problems. The officer then spoke about the industrial action members would be taking which would affect flights over the Easter weekend.

The senior examiner for the News Report said: “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 pass rate for the News Interview exam was 65 per cent – 93 of the 144 who sat the exam.

The news interview 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 aim was for candidates to get enough information to write a vigorous and well-balanced story.

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.”

The pass rate for the Newspaper Practice paper was 63 per cent – 89 candidates out of 142.

Questions focussed on anonymity for young offenders, the judicial process, contempt and Magistrates court act restrictions.

The senior examiner for Newspaper Practice said: “Those who did struggle often submitted practice answers that were thin, poorly thought out, or which betrayed a lack of experience of tackling stories.

“The majority of candidates did not struggle, and passed, some very comfortably. There are clearly many young journalists sitting this paper who have been well-trained and guided by their editorial managers.”

In the Logbook section the pass rate was 95 per cent – 91 out of 96 candidates achieving success.

The senior examiner for Logbooks said: “The March submissions showed a pleasing level of consistency among our candidates and examiners had no major issues which caused concern.

“We continue to receive video submissions and they are certainly of an impressive calibre showing the versatility of the current crop of trainees.”