Two more trainees pass the NCE for sports reporters

Picture: Mark Williams of the Bury Free Press was one of two candidates to pass July's NCE for sports reporters.

The second NCE for sports reporters saw two more trainee reporters achieve senior status in the new qualification. Benjamin Pearce, a reporter for the Hampstead & Highgate Express, and Mark Williams of the Bury Free Press passed all four sections of the exam: sports interview; sports report; newspaper practice for sports reporters; and sports logbook.

There were three candidates who sat the exam on Friday, 2 July in Swindon – the same number as the first ever sitting in March. There was one candidate re-sitting and two taking the new qualification for the first time.

The sports interview section of the NCE was sat and passed by two candidates. It focused on a journeyman golfer who had qualified for a place at the 139th Open Championship at St Andrews. The twist to the story was that he had been diagnosed with and treated for testicular cancer a year earlier and was back playing golf within six months. The chief examiner said: “Both candidates who sat this exam produced solid, if unspectacular pieces of copy to gain passes, and used their interview time wisely.”

The sports report paper centred on an interview with real-life international cricketer and Somerset captain Marcus Trescothick. The fictional aspect of the story was his recall to the international team for the one-day series against Bangladesh, four years after playing his last ever game for England. Although he hinted at featuring in the Test series against Pakistan, he said he would not be available for the Ashes series in Australia. There were two candidates who sat the paper and both passed.

Three candidates sat the newspaper practice exam and all achieved passes. They all chose to answer the same law question in part A, which was about a local Championship footballer who had been called up as a late replacement to England’s World Cup Squad. The chief examiner said: “Candidates were taken through four legal scenarios involving questions being asked about the player’s nationality, the legal ramifications over allegations the player assaulted a woman in a nightclub, and suggestions of unusual spread betting patterns when he misses a sitter in a World Cup semi-final.”

The three questions in part B included: a pitch brawl at a junior football league game which saw two players taken to hospital; a boxer of joint British/Ghanaian nationality being forced to represent Ghana at the Commonwealth Games after apparently being frozen out by the British Amateur Boxing Association; and a county cricket captain lamenting the heavy workload on modern players during a speech at a sportsman’s dinner after an injury to the club’s star player. Candidates had to devise strategies for covering the stories in print and online. 

The final section of the NCE for sports reporters is the logbook. There were two logbooks submitted for assessment: one was a pass and the other a fail. The chief examiner said: “One was a good pass, the other failed because the candidate failed to submit signed original copy for more than half of the stories submitted.” Although the candidates followed the rest of the guidelines, he stressed that it was a key element of the logbook task and one which needed to be adhered to.

 So far, five trainees have now gained senior status for passing the NCE for sports reporters. Nicholas Banks of the Express & Echo, Exeter, and Andrew Sloan, a reporter for the Bristol Evening Post, were successful in March, and David Pritchard of Kent on Sunday in September. David was awarded the qualification by the NCTJ after his impressive performance in an exam taken during the certificate’s development stage.

The qualification was designed by the NCTJ because of the growing trend of trainee reporters joining sports desks. It followed the success of the preliminary examination in Sports Journalism, launched in 2008.