NCTJ announces Awards for Excellence 2016 winners

Student and trainee journalists were honoured at the NCTJ Awards for Excellence ceremony at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport on Thursday evening.

Over 40 journalists representing 13 categories attended the awards dinner, which was hosted by BBC deputy political editor, John Pienaar. He announced the winners to a host of journalists and journalism educators.

Pienaar said: “Behind the success of each of those winning students and trainees will be a team of dedicated trainers and educators. All of those who teach on accredited courses should be congratulated on achieving the high standards the NCTJ sets on behalf of the industry.

“Those on the shortlist tonight have demonstrated the combination of writing skills, determination and resilience needed to forge a career in journalism. Our expert judging panel was thoroughly impressed by the quality of work submitted.”

The winners were presented with certificates by Kim Fletcher, NCTJ chairman. The categories included news journalism, sports journalism, features, top scoop/exclusive, multimedia story/campaign and best student project.

Performance awards were given to the student journalist of the year and trainee journalist of the year who achieved the best results in their diploma and NQJ exams, respectively. Now in its second year, apprentice of the year, was also presented following nominations from employers and trainers.

In total there were more than 230 submissions to the Awards for Excellence. Student entries were produced during an NCTJ-accredited course or distance learning course. To enter the trainee categories, journalists must have been working for less than two years in any sector of journalism and completed the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism.

This year’s student journalist of the year is Sara Oldfield. She studied at News Associates London and achieved the highest marks across all her exams as well as 110wpm in shorthand. Sara is now digital editor of Fabulous, The Sun’s weekly women’s supplement.

Trainee journalist of the year was Charlotte Tobitt of the Surrey Advertiser. She passed her NQJ in November 2015 with the highest marks out of all UK candidates. She won the Ted Bottomley award for her performance in the media law and practice exam, as well as the Esso award for the best performance in the news report exam. Charlotte completed her NCTJ diploma at Kingston University.

The winner of apprentice of the year was BBC digital journalist apprentice, Rachel Coburn. She studied at City of Wolverhampton College and was nominated by 2015 chairman’s award winner Sue Green. In addition to outstanding diploma exam results, Rachel was chosen for the high quality of her professional conduct and the standard of her skills and ability in the newsroom. 

Alex Grove, who won the student news journalism award, studied at the University of Sheffield. The judges said he submitted outstanding work, citing his submission as “thorough, gripping and brave”. Alex is now a reporter for the North West Evening Mail.

Winning the trainee news journalism award was Chris Humphreys of the Swindon Advertiser. Chris joined the Advertiser after completing his NCTJ diploma at Highbury College. The judges highlighted Chris’s work for his use of photos, quotes and high quality writing.

The winner of the student sports journalism award was Richard Amofa of News Associates London. Richard is currently working on the sports desk at the Daily Telegraph and also runs his own football news site – Off the Post News.  

Taking first place for the trainee sports journalism award was Ross Lawson with Sportsbeat. Ross’s work was praised by the judges who said: “This is engaging and evocative storytelling from a 21-year-old who attests to that sporting cliché that if you’re good enough, age doesn’t matter.”

For the student features category, Gareth Evans scooped the award. He studied at the University of Sheffield and is now a trainee journalist based in Wales with BBC News. Gareth was praised for his ability to make real people and victims the focus of his domestic violence piece.

The winner of the trainee feature award was Rosy Cherrington, a style writer for The Huffington Post. Rosy was previously shortlisted for the student news journalism award at the 2014 Awards for Excellence.

Lucy Pasha-Robinson won student top scoop/exclusive. Lucy, who attended News Associates London, currently works as a news reporter for The Independent. Lucy was commended for her genuine scoop that was picked up by a number of national newspapers.

In the trainee top scoop/exclusive category, Shanti Das of South West News Service won. The judges praised Shanti for beating the nationals and getting the first interview with someone at the centre of a big story and following it up with well-written and packed copy.

Abi McDonald picked up the multimedia story/campaign award. Abi, who studied at the University of Sheffield, won for her submission that the judges said left them “completely blown away”. Abi has since moved to London to work for a creative digital marketing agency.

The student project award went to Amy Stark from the University of Sunderland. Amy’s student project, Weird and Wonderful Subcultures, was commended for being a “fascinating, well-researched original idea” covering everything from vampires in Manchester to the living dolls of Seattle in a project that the judges felt could be translated into any medium.

The full list of winners and commendations is as follows:

Student news journalism:

Winner – Alex Grove, University of Sheffield

Highly commended – Sophie Halle-Richards, University of Sheffield

Commended – Katerina Tiliakou, Brunel University

Trainee news journalism:

Winner – Chris Humphreys, Swindon Advertiser

Highly commended – Thomas Mackintosh, Crawley News

Commended – Benjamin Blosse, Hull Daily Mail

Student sports journalism:

Winner – Richard Amofa, News Associates London

Highly commended – Luke Bidwell, University of Sunderland

Commended – Rachel Wheatley, Glyndwr University

Trainee sports journalism:

Winner – Ross Lawson, Sportsbeat

Highly commended – Will Kelleher, Scottish Daily Mail

Student feature:

Winner – Gareth Evans, University of Sheffield

Highly commended – Oscar Lopez-Gibson, NCTJ distance learner

Commended – Estel Farell-Roig, University of Sheffield

Trainee feature:

Winner – Rosy Cherrington, The Huffington Post

Highly commended – Michael Steward, Saffron Walden Reporter

Commended – Carly Minsky, Times Higher Education

Student top scoop/exclusive:

Winner – Lucy Pasha-Robinson, News Associates London

Highly commended – Ross Kempsell, News Associates London

Commended – Michael Cantillon, St Mary’s University

Trainee top scoop/exclusive:

Winner – Shanti Das, South West News Service

Highly commended – Chloe Farand, Ilford Recorder and Romford Recorder

Commended – Lily Waddell, Daily Star Online

Student multimedia story/campaign:

Winner – Abi McDonald, University of Sheffield

Highly commended – Rebecca Marian Miller, Bournemouth University

Commended – Kate McGreavy, University of Sheffield

Student project:

Winner – Weird and Wonderful Subcultures, University of Sunderland

Highly commended – Bold, University of Sunderland

Commended – Clyde Outside, Glasgow Clyde College

Apprentice of the year:

Winner – Rachel Coburn, BBC

Commended – JP Asher, The Comet and Royston Crow

Commended – Kirsty Hickey, Sky News

Commended – Tom Oakley, Express and Star

Student journalist of the year:

Winner – Sara Oldfield, News Associates

Trainee journalist of the year:

Winner – Charlotte Tobitt, Surrey Advertiser

Chairman's award:

Paul Jones

Thank you to our judges who assessed and commented on all the submissions.

This year’s judges were:

  • Claire Bourke, senior examiner, NCTJ
  • Sue Campbell, director, Media Messages
  • Andrea Davidson, radio journalist, BBC Suffolk
  • Brian Flynn, former investigations editor, The Sun
  • James Higgins, editor, North West Evening Mail
  • Jacqui Merrington, digital editor, Cornish Guardian
  • Keith Morris, productions editor, Newsquest Cheshire/Merseyside
  • Gillian Parkinson, editor, Lancashire Evening Post
  • Mark Payton, editorial director, Haymarket Consumer Media
  • Richard Priest, editor, The Sunday Post and The Weekly News
  • Paul Ridley, director, Paul Ridley Media
  • David Rowell, board director, NCTJ
  • Noel Russell, freelance producer and writer
  • Alice Ryan, head of magazines, Cambridge News
  • Laurie Tucker, day editor and journalism training, Sky Sports News HQ
  • Simon Waldam, director, Simon Waldman Media