Trainees determined to pass NCE despite recession

Trainee reporters are determined to complete their training despite the recession, the chief examiner of the NCTJ’s National Certificate Examination (NCE) has concluded.

The number of candidates who sat the NCE on Friday 3rd July 2009 at 13 centres across the country was 199, an increase of 54 per cent on the 129 candidates who sat the exam in July last year.

The chief examiner said: “As the recession continues to hit the newspaper industry and job opportunities remain limited, it is pleasing to see that trainees are determined to complete their training and gain senior status.”

The senior journalism qualification was awarded to 95 candidates who were successful in all four areas: news interview, news report, newspaper practice and logbook.

This represents a 48 per cent pass rate, consistent with previous sittings in March 2009 and November 2008, but a drop from the 66 per cent pass rate achieved in July 2008.

The pass rate for the news interview exam was 63 per cent - 95 of the 151 who sat the exam.

The test centred around an unprovoked attack on a pensioner in her own home and the aim was for candidates to conduct a face-to-face interview and elicit enough information to write a vigorous and well-balanced story.

The senior examiner specialising in the news interview said: “The best stories drew a vivid picture in the minds of the readers and supported the opening with an appropriate structure and quotes.

“Those who did not pass should take note of the skills needed by a reporter in a 21st century newsroom. Publishers quite rightly have a focus on changing technology but core journalistic skills must not be forgotten. It does not matter what platform is being used to tell a story, the basics must still be there.

“In today’s crowded market where there are so many news outlets, it is important to get the best story, the story that will make your publication stand out and be the first that readers will trust.”

In the news report exam, 98 out of 186 candidates were successful – a pass rate of 53 per cent.

Information about the development of a derelict canal basin as a centre for tourism and leisure was given to candidates in a press conference setting.

The senior examiner said: “Most candidates picked up on the key aspects of the story – the restoration, moorings, homes and opportunities for businesses to set up in the canal basin.

“Many of the stories submitted were sound, accurate reports from candidates who were a credit to their editors.”

She added: “It was clear that many candidates found their shorthand lacking. The examiners were presented with many partial quote extracts, stitched quotes and even in a few cases completely fictitious quotes. The examiners cannot stress enough just how important it is for a journalist to maintain their shorthand at a minimum of 100wpm throughout their career.”

The pass rate for the newspaper practice exam was 66 per cent - 98 out of 149 candidates.

The chief examiner said: “Examiners found some very good answers, but also a relatively high number where candidates had struggled. The practice questions are about ideas and showing how you would tackle a story.”

He added: “Anecdotally we hear that reporters are increasingly tied to their desks and unable to get out to cover stories. If this is the case it may be that they are not amassing enough experience to do themselves justice on the practice questions.”

The logbook pass rate was 96 per cent - 97 out of 101 candidates achieving success.

The senior examiner for logbooks said: “The vast majority of logbooks showed solid, well-written copy from journalists who are responding to training and growing in both confidence and stature.

“One negative trend is that on some occasions poorly written copy is going straight into print or on the website. It appears that some stories do not look to have been edited properly and while this may reflect poorly on candidates, it is an issue for the industry itself to deal with in these difficult times.”

Five trainees sat the NCE for sub-editors on the same day, the fourth time the examination has been held. All passed, a 100 per cent pass rate.

The chief examiner of the NCE for sub-editors said: “In the sub-editing exam, in which candidates have to produce a page from scratch in just two hours, the standard was excellent.

“Design was generally clean and, most importantly, copy subbing was sharp and precise.”