NCTJ announces November NQJ award winners

After a record 78 per cent pass rate in the November NQJ exams, the highest performing candidates in each of the four sections have received high praise from the exam moderator.

The award winners, from a range of regional papers, are as follows: Ellis Whitehouse (Maldon and Burnham Standard); JP Asher (The Comet); Huw Oxburgh (Worthing Herald) and Wesley Holmes (Blackpool Gazette). Each winner receives a cheque for £250 and a certificate to mark their achievement.

Ellis Whitehouse has been awarded the media law award for his performance in the media law and practice exam. Ellis, who works at the Maldon and Burnham Standard after completing a fast-track diploma at News Associates Manchester in 2016, said: “I’ve often had to work my brain overtime for exams, as my memory and application is not as strong as others, so to be the highest achiever for the entire country for media law and practice is nothing short of flabbergasting.

“Credit must go to my terrific news editor Adam Cornell who knows every scrap of law you can imagine off by heart and has helped me enormously with court reporting and other criminal details. Reporting in court and inquests is something I’ve really grown to enjoy in this role, and this award shows that I’m clearly doing something right.”

News editor Adam Cornell said: “Ellis did exceptionally well and is fully deserving of the award. He worked extremely hard to make sure he not only understood the law but how to apply it in practice.”

The moderator was impressed with Ellis’ submission, saying: “An excellent all-round paper, with easy-to-follow answers and no problem areas. The second question was almost flawless and question three was sensibly discussed with well-reasoned conclusions.”

JP Asher of The Comet, who began his Level 3 Junior Journalist Apprenticeship at Lambeth College in 2015, has been awarded the Esso award for the best news report. He said: “To win this national prize a mere two years after starting as an apprentice is just great – and I’m delighted to have done it with my hometown paper.

“I’d like to thank The Comet’s editor Nick Gill and our now-retired boss John Francis for believing in me and giving me this chance.”

The moderator commented: “John was a clear winner of the news report section. His accurate report was packed with information from the outset and delivered in an easy to read style, enhanced by full verbatim quotes.

“This candidate has an eye for delivering a hard-hitting factual report, supported with valid and interesting ideas for part B.”

Huw Oxburgh won the Society of Editors’ award for the best news interview. Since completing his MA in newspaper journalism at Cardiff University in 2015, Huw now works at the Worthing Herald.

He said: “I'm thrilled to be chosen for this award and it comes as a really pleasant surprise. I owe a huge thanks to everyone I've worked with for the last few years, for giving me tonnes of help and support.”

The moderator called Huw a well-deserved winner, adding: “This was an excellent story by Huw. He told the story with some drama. It flowed all the way through, and his use of language and colour was very good."

Finally, Wesley Holmes, a 2015 graduate from Darlington College who is now working for the Blackpool Gazette, won the Newsquest award for the best e-logbook.

Wesley said: “I am incredibly pleased to receive this award. I couldn’t have achieved this without the guidance of my news editors.

“I’d like to think this is a reflection of the effort put in by the Blackpool Gazette team every day regardless of the challenges we might face.”

The moderator praised the outstanding performance from Wesley in his logbook submission, which was awarded maximum marks across a number of key tasks, saying: “A great logbook and a body of work which shows a candidate with an excellent grasp of all the key components needed to build an interesting and fully rounded story.”