Toby Bryant, Jay Gardner and Megan Howe

Trio who achieved top NQJ results congratulated by examiners

Three journalists who achieved the highest marks in their National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) exams this year have been congratulated by the NCTJ’s senior examiners.

Three journalists who achieved the highest marks in their National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) exams this year have been congratulated by the NCTJ’s senior examiners.

The NQJ Examiners’ Report 2023, published today, names all the journalists who achieved the qualification in exams in November 2022, March 2023 and July 2023.

It also reveals the three candidates who gained the highest marks in each exam:

  • Toby Bryant, Media Law and Ethics in Practice Award, sponsored by Reviewed and Cleared
  • Jay Gardner, Logbook Award, sponsored by Newsquest
  • Megan Howe, Practical Journalism Skills Award, sponsored By Esso

The trio will all receive a prize from award sponsors.

It also names all 56 candidates who achieved the NQJ. A total of 150 candidates sat at least one NQJ exam over the period.

Megan Howe

Shropshire Star community news reporter Megan earned 80 per cent in the community journalism version of the practical journalism skills exam.

She said it is “brilliant to be honoured”.

“It was an exam that everybody seems to struggle with because it’s quite hefty,” Megan added. “But when it comes to journalists’ work, it’s what you do and deal with day to day.

Megan Howe

“I quite enjoyed writing the article for the exam, seeing how your story develops as you get more information.

“It was quite stressful – all exams are to an extent – but I enjoyed this one and it was a consolidation of the work that myself and my [trainer] had put in.”

After completing an English degree from the University of Exeter, Megan was hired as a community reporter in 2021 through the Community News Project.

The 24-year-old completed her NCTJ Diploma in Journalism in May 2022, enabling her to sit the NQJ exams this year.

The examiners said Megan’s exam was “excellent in all sections, showing clear ethical knowledge and an all-round journalistic ability to find information and deliver a clear concise story”.

Richard Scrase, media and communications adviser at award sponsor Esso, said: “Congratulations to Megan for achieving the best marks in this exam this year. We are proud to support this award.”

Toby Bryant

Toby only dropped 15 marks in his media law and ethics in practice exam, meaning he achieved a 90 per cent mark.

He said: “I am really chuffed. I was shocked at the time, I wasn’t expecting it – I had heard of the NQJ awards so I guess it was in the back of my mind but I had forgotten about it.”

After completing his NCTJ diploma on a fast-track course at News Associates in Twickenham, Toby got his first reporting job at Reach’s Sussex Live and Kent Live.

Toby Bryant

Toby Bryant

The 25-year-old then moved to Newcastle World as a local journalist, and most recently moved to National World’s central team as a sports lifestyle writer.

Toby showed “no weaknesses” in his media law and ethics exam, the examiners wrote.

They said: “He showed thorough knowledge of both the law and ethics and was able to apply this to the scenarios, spotting problems and showing how to deal with them.

“His answers were succinct and easy to follow, leaving the marker able to concentrate on the all-round understanding shown without having to work out what Toby was trying to say.”

Award sponsor Reviewed and Cleared’s chief executive, Alex Wade, said: “In a democracy, journalism is always essential, never more so than in the present day with its diet of fake news and social media pile-ons.

“Reviewed and Cleared is passionate about supporting journalists’ work effectively, whatever the content they’re publishing, and whatever the context. We are once again delighted to support this award, and wish Toby every success.”

Jay Gardner

Jay, who was “blindsided” by news of his award, achieved 86 per cent for his logbook, which showcased a variety of his work since January 2022 when he started as a BBC apprentice.

His favourite submitted story was about the gentrification of Deptford High Street, after it was named one of the 33 coolest streets in the world by Time Out voters.

He said: “I went round there to speak to people – some had their house prices going up and better transport links but there were people who had lived in the area for 50 or 60 years whose kids can’t afford to live there too.”

Jay Gardner

The 23-year-old used his interviews to create a short video package to complement his written piece, and the story garnered a million views over just one weekend, Jay said.

The examiners said Jay is a “very worthy winner”.

“It was great to see a mix of radio and visual packages in this logbook as well as well-received stories on the BBC website,” they wrote.

Before Jay become an apprentice at the BBC, he had graduated from the University of Leicester with a politics and journalism degree.

NCTJ chief examiner Andy Martin congratulated all the candidates who passed the NQJ exams this year.

He said: “These qualifications remain the gold standard for our industry and rightly so.

“We only need to take a quick glance at the world around us to see that trusted, trained, professional journalists are needed more than ever to hold public institutions and private organisations to account and speak truth to power.”

Click here to get a downloadable copy of the NQJ Examiner’s Report 2023.

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