A group of Community News Project reporters are celebrating after becoming the first of the scheme’s journalists to complete their NCTJ Diploma in Journalism to ‘gold standard’, having started from scratch after the project began.
Alison Bagley, Rebecca Beardmore, Emma Shepherd and Lisa Wong took their 100wpm shorthand exam earlier in September, and this week received the news they had passed. They had achieved A-C grades in all their other diploma modules earlier in the year.
Alison, who began her community reporter role at the Northamptonshire Telegraph in June 2019 said: "It's been a really tough and strange year. At the start, the course combined online lectures with once a fortnight face-to-face lessons at Sheffield College.
"Then Covid struck. Lecturer Sam Cooper adapted to teaching remotely with ease and we just carried on 'attending' college from home.
"Doing exams from our spare rooms and dining tables was slightly fraught. With a house full of family, all trying to use the broadband at the same time, they had to be banished into the garden, knowing that at any moment concentration could be broken by next door's dog barking or any number of distractions.
"Passing to gold standard is a relief. To know that I have made the grade is just the start - I've been given the tools to continue my career in journalism and that's exciting."
The reporters, three of whom work for JPIMedia titles, were part of a cohort studying for the diploma at The Sheffield College. The fourth, Emma Shepherd, works for independent newspaper, the Barnsley Chronicle.
Their tutor, Sam Cooper said he was proud of their achievements: "All of the community news reporters worked so hard this year. It has certainly been a year like no other so to then go on and pass all their exams is incredible.
"To achieve 100wpm when they have been working remotely since March is an amazing achievement. I am so proud of each of them."
The remaining members of the Sheffield College group had also achieved A-Cs in their previous modules and are hoping to gain their 100wpm in the coming months.
Jeremy Clifford, editor-in-chief of JPIMedia titles said: "We are delighted our Community News Project reporters have reached the gold standard of journalism. It demonstrates that this programme can be successful in identifying people we may not have ordinarily recruited and take them on a career progression to become a fully-fledged journalist."
Overall, six community reporters have been combining their day jobs with studying at The Sheffield College. Other groups of CNP journalists are undertaking tailored training programmes at Bauer Academy, Bournemouth University, Darlington College and Glasgow Caledonian University. They will be sitting further diploma exams in due course.
An additional cohort is working towards the senior level National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ), having studied for the Diploma in Journalism prior to the project beginning.
Will Gore, head of partnerships and projects at the NCTJ, said: “It’s fantastic to see these four CNP reporters achieve their Diploma in Journalism to gold standard. We know many others employed as part of the project will follow in their footsteps.
“Given the enormous challenges they have faced in recent months because of the coronavirus pandemic – at work, at home and in their studies – I’m sure their success will taste particularly sweet.
“It is also a further indicator that the Community News Project is driving important, positive change at what remains a testing time for the industry.”
Sian Cox-Brooker, strategic partner manager at Facebook added: “We’re delighted to hear these community reporters have achieved the NCTJ’s gold standard. It demonstrates the impact the CNP is having both in telling local community stories and in growing journalistic talent across the UK.”