Top-performing trainees celebrated for outstanding NQJ exam performance

Three newly-qualified senior journalists are celebrating achieving top results in their exams for the National Qualification in Journalism.

Three newly-qualified senior journalists are celebrating achieving top results in their exams for the National Qualification in Journalism.

A total of 91 candidates sat their NQJ exams in three sittings across the 2021-22 academic year. Across those sittings in November 2021, March 2022 and July 2022, 47 achieved the qualification, equating to a pass rate of 55 per cent.

A full pass list was published today in the 2021-22 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 and Cleared: Sarah Hussain, Eastern Daily Press
  • Practical journalism skills award, sponsored by Esso: Amy Austin, Financial Times
  • Logbook award, sponsored by Newsquest: Lewis Smith, Wales Online

Each winner receives a certificate and a prize of £750 from the award sponsor.

Sarah Hussain

Sarah Hussain, who studied for her gold standard diploma with Bournemouth University as a community news reporter, was praised by the moderator for having “no weaknesses” in her answers in the media law and ethics in practice exam. They described her answers as “clear and concise, showing not only impressive knowledge but also how to apply it to the scenarios in the questions”.

Sarah said: “I am honoured to receive this award. I was determined to get the NQJ after joining the industry and am delighted to have turned that ambition into a reality, particularly following the challenges of training during the pandemic. This recognition makes that achievement even sweeter.”

Alex Wade, CEO of award sponsor Reviewed and Cleared, said: “Reviewed and Cleared is delighted to support this award and to congratulate Sarah on an outstanding piece of work. Sarah deftly navigated the tension between privacy and the public interest – something of pressing daily concern to media lawyers and journalists alike. Well done.”

Amy Austin

Amy Austin, news editor at FTAdvisor from the Financial Times, was described as a “deserving recipient” of the practical journalism skills award. Moderators described her feature package for the specialist brand publishing pathway as “an excellent example of how to incorporate all the core journalism values as well as utilising new platform trends”.

The specialist brand publishing pathway of the NQJ launched in the 2021-22 academic year, and asks for candidates to demonstrate their awareness of how to use editorial content to build their publication’s brand. The assessment is a feature package for the candidate’s own title and involves hours of research and interviewing during office hours before the collation and writing on the day of the assessment.

It is one of three pathways for NQJ candidates depending on their career focus. Other pathways include the big news story or community journalism practical exams.

Amy said: “I am so shocked to hear this news but absolutely over the moon! I am so grateful to all my colleagues who helped me through my training and exams and I am beyond thrilled that all my hard work has paid off.”

Richard Scrase, media adviser at award sponsor Esso, said: “Congratulations to Amy for achieving the finest practical journalism skills results in this year’s NQJ sittings. We are proud to continue our longstanding support for this award.”

Lewis Smith
Photo: Rob Browne

Lewis Smith, who achieved the NQJ as a community news reporter at Wales Online and is now a local democracy reporter, was praised by the moderator for his award-winning logbook, which was “well-crafted and hit all key criteria”.

The moderator added: “With a very strong writing style which clearly grabbed the reader’s attention from the outset, this has proved to be a worthy winner.”

Lewis, who studied for his diploma at Darlington College, said: “Completing the NQJ has been one of the most challenging yet satisfying experiences of my life. Throughout the qualification I was able to learn a wide range of skills I will need to work as a senior reporter and can’t wait to put them to good use in the coming years.”

In the report published today, chief examiner Andy Martin said: “I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all the successful candidates who have achieved their NQJ over the past academic year.

“I know many of the successful candidates on a professional level across a number of publishing groups and am fully aware of the hard work and dedication that has gone into passing the qualification. It has been no mean feat given the extraordinary challenges of the past two years and the ongoing challenges in the industry. The NQJ is as rigorous and relevant as ever in a media environment changing faster than ever.”

Click here to read the full examiners’ report.

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