Top-performing trainees celebrated for outstanding NQJ exam performance

Three newly-qualified senior journalists are celebrating achieving top marks in their NQJ exams.

Across the 2019-20 academic year, a total of 84 candidates sat the exams for the NQJ. Over the three sittings, a total of 59 candidates achieved the qualification, a pass rate of 70 per cent.

A full pass list was published today in the 2019-20 examiners’ report.

The awards for the highest-performing candidates in each of the three sections are as follows:

  • Media law and ethics in practice award, sponsored by Reviewed & Cleared: Conor Matchett, Edinburgh Evening News
  • E-logbook award, sponsored by Newsquest: Ross Hanvidge, Helensburgh Advertiser
  • Practical journalism skills award, sponsored by Esso: James Roberts, Oxford Mail

Each winner receives a certificate and a prize of £750.

Conor Matchett, who also won the NCTJ trainee top scoop award in 2019, was congratulated by the moderator for his ‘exceptional’ media law and ethics in practice exam.

Conor, who completed his diploma with PA Training, said: “This comes as a huge surprise, but I am over the moon to receive this award. Studying Scots law for the NQJ exam after sitting English law in my diploma was a huge challenge which meant almost starting from scratch in terms of my legal knowledge, but this award makes the hard graft more than worthwhile.

“Thank you to everyone at the Edinburgh Evening News and JPIMedia for your support, thank you to those who taught me while I was studying for my diploma with PA Training, and thank you to my long-suffering flatmate who spent many weeks answering oddly specific defamation law questions as part of my revision.”

Julian Darrall, managing director at Reviewed & Cleared, said: “We are delighted to continue our relationship with the NCTJ by sponsoring this important award again this year. 

“Having a good grasp of the key legal and regulatory principles, and knowing when to seek expert legal guidance, are essential tools for every journalist setting out to produce courageous but responsible content. Well done Conor!”

Another winner in Scotland, Ross Hanvidge, was praised by the moderator for his excellent logbook which ‘gained high marks due to a number of impressive elements’.

The Glasgow Caledonian University graduate said: “I’m delighted – and shocked – to receive this award.

“While it was obviously a huge relief to pass my NQJ, the logbook was very much a labour of love featuring real human-interest stories which were important to the communities I cover.

“I genuinely enjoy my job and feel very fortunate to have been given an opportunity in a tough industry.

“I’m looking forward to, hopefully, many more successful years in my role.”

James Roberts, who won the practical journalism skills award for the big news story exam, was described by the moderator as having ‘demonstrated skills across the board as a journalist’.

James, who completed his Diploma in Journalism with News Associates London, said: “So many talented journalists sat this exam, so I'm incredibly proud to win the award. It's a real honour and I'm delighted at the achievement.”

The NQJ exam sittings took place in November 2019, March 2020 and July 2020. The exams in July were successfully delivered remotely, with candidates able to sit them securely from home.

In the report published today, chief examiner Andy Martin said: “The coronavirus pandemic has brought immense challenges for everyone and that applies to trainee journalists most especially.

“So I would like to pay tribute to all those who undertook the NQJ in July and offer my congratulations to all those who achieved the qualification in 2019-20. The pass rate is a huge credit to their hard work and dedication.

“I also offer lots of encouragement to those who just missed out. Your time will come soon.”

You can read the full examiners’ report here.