Inaugural Paul Durrant award presented at NCTJ awards dinner

Charlotte Austen-Hardy, senior reporter at the Chelmsford Weekly News, is the winner of the inaugural Paul Durrant Award for her outstanding performance in the NCTJ’s National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) exams.

The Paul Durrant Award is awarded annually to a newly-qualified journalist working on a newspaper in the East of England for their performance in the senior exams for trainee reporters. The award, sponsored by Archant, is in honour of Paul Durrant, former assistant editor of the Eastern Daily Press (EDP) and NCTJ journalism trainer who has launched the careers of hundreds of young reporters. Paul, 63, of Hellesdon near Norwich, has terminal cancer of the oesophagus.

Charlotte was presented with her award by Nigel Pickover, editor-in-chief of the EDP, at an NCTJ awards ceremony held at the Library of Birmingham on Thursday, 26 November.

Charlotte said: “I’m absolutely over the moon about being presented with Mr Durrant’s award, it is such an honour.

“I hope to do him proud and continue to uphold the values and standards our NQJ training teaches us and which Mr Durrant holds so dear.”

She added: “My training has been incredibly valuable in my career so far and I’d advise any trainees to take advantage of training opportunities offered to them, such as law or interview practice, as it not only gives you the best possible chance of success in the examinations but also the skills and confidence to tackle difficult stories in the newsroom.”

Paul, who couldn’t be at the ceremony due to ill health, sent his own message to the winner. He said: “As I've said before it is humbling for this award to be presented in my name tonight – and not a tad bizarre when I haven't actually fulfilled my part of the “in memory” bargain yet.

“I'm really sorry not be able to be with you tonight, not least to catch up with old friends, but mainly to congratulate Charlotte in person, who I hope is having at least one large one on me.

Reading her CV, it's already clear she's making a great impact on the industry, and I'm sure this is one of many awards she'll pick up in her career.”

Photography by BBC Academy/Mark Robertson