A newly-qualified senior reporter at the Hastings & St Leonards Observer is celebrating today after winning two awards for his exceptional performance in the March National Certificate Examination.
Rob Alderson, 26, won both the News Interview Award, sponsored by the Society of Editors, and the News Report Award, sponsored by Esso, for submitting outstanding papers in each exam.
"It’s all a bit surreal to win the awards. I felt the interview had gone quite well but I thought I had tied myself in knots on the news report.
“But I am made up and I hope it shows just how good a traineeship you can get on a weekly paper – you tend to get a lot more experience a lot more quickly in a place like Hastings,” Rob said.
The examiners said Rob’s news interview story “caught all the drama” of a tragic tale. They praised him for his impressive coverage of the emotion and tragedy of the event and for using all the facts to produce “a thoroughly readable story”.
In the news report exam, the examiners said Rob combined the skills of accurate reporting with an excellent news sense to produce a story that was “head and shoulders above the rest”.
Hitting back at recent comments made by former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie that journalism colleges should be shut down, Rob, who studied an NCTJ-accredited course at Cardiff University, said: "We were very well prepared by the trainers at Johnston Press and that built on the skills I learned at Cardiff.
“If Kelvin MacKenzie really thinks you can’t teach journalism then he needs to go and see the work David English and his team do."
Another Cardiff University post-graduate, Gemma Casey, of the Wilts & Gloucestershire Standard, received recognition for her impressive performance in the newspaper practice exam.
Gemma, 23, won the Ted Bottomley Award, sponsored by Midland News Association, and spoke of her delight when she heard the news.
"I am thrilled to win the Ted Bottomley Award, it is an amazing feeling to know that the hard work paid off. It is an honour to win an award named after a fantastic journalist like Mr Bottomley.
"I would like to say a big thank you to my editor Skip Walker and news editor Simon Davies for the fantastic training they have given me to help me through the exams."
Examiners said Gemma’s paper showed an excellent understanding of law with a “near-perfect” answer for part A. The depth and breadth of her answer for part B also demonstrated “a good understanding of how a modern reporter must think and work”.
Paying tribute to Rob and Gemma’s success, director of the centre of journalism at Cardiff University, Richard Tait, said: “I was delighted to see how well Robert and Gemma performed in the recent NCE – they are a credit to Cardiff and to the NCTJ and I wish them every success in their future journalistic careers.”
And finally, Jon Livesey, of the Lancashire Telegraph, won the Newsquest Award for submitting the best logbook.
Examiners praised Jon for his mature and “easy to read style”. They added that he showed an impressive storytelling skill, with handouts and human interest particular strong points.
A post-graduate of the NCTJ-accredited course at the University of Central Lancashire, Jon, 28, said: “I'm thrilled to win the logbook award. People often tell me I can be retentive, but my obsessive attention to detail seems to have paid off this time.
“I've had some excellent training, both at the University of Central Lancashire, where I did my post-graduate diploma in print journalism, and at the Lancashire Telegraph, where my colleagues have given me some extremely helpful tips."
The prize for award winners is a £250 cheque and a certificate to recognise their achievement.