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Rianna Croxford winning an NCTJ award

Alumni

With 81 per cent of qualified journalists in the UK holding an NCTJ qualification, it will come as no surprise that NCTJ alumni are working in all areas of the news media, including many familiar faces!

Notable alumni

Here are just some of the NCTJ alumni who are working in different areas of journalism today.

Alex Crawford

Alex Crawford

Special correspondent, Sky News

Alex Crawford

Alex Crawford

Special correspondent, Sky News

Alex Crawford works as the special correspondent for Sky News reporting from Turkey.

Alex began her career at the Wokingham Times, completed her NCTJ training and then moved to the BBC and TV-am before joining Sky News at its launch in 1989.

She said about her training: “The great thing about the course was the mix of theory and almost immediate practice.

“We were expected to come to the office with ideas for stories from day one and encouraged to always be ‘on duty’ wherever we were. Walter Greenwood lived, breathed and loved law and enthused us and encouraged us to challenge everything. He would regale us with stories of reporters who had challenged judges’ rulings. They were held up as heroes who had changed events for the good – and we all aspired to do the same. When we returned to our newspapers we really believed we could contribute and make a difference.

“Shorthand was/is invaluable. Obviously we all hated it. It was time-consuming and numbingly boring but my god, what a necessary evil. I can’t tell you over the years how many times it has saved my a**e. Even if it’s scrappy, almost impossible to read back, when your back is against the wall, it can pull you right out of the mucky stuff.

“I don’t believe you can really be a thorough journalist without a thorough training like the NCTJ.

“I can’t imagine a better career. I have worked in newspapers, radio, TV and online and have had a ball – and it all began in an NCTJ training room above the Bigg market in Newcastle. God it was fun.”

Anna Botting

Anna Botting

Presenter, Sky News

Anna Botting

Anna Botting

Presenter, Sky News

Top broadcaster and Sky News presenter Anna Botting completed her NCTJ training on a postgraduate journalism course at Cardiff University.

Reflecting on how important her training was in media law and public affairs, she said: “Knowing the pitfalls of the law is absolutely essential to being a working journalist. I remember one of the first elements of our course involved a father giving a simulated press conference, lamenting the fact that his “daughter had run off with a terrorist”. I duly wrote it up. Not only had I defamed the new boyfriend, but the father had also said “guitarist” not “terrorist”….lesson learned.

“I strangely loved public affairs – picking apart the bodies that run our lives was fascinating and as you start out as a journalist this gives you a much better understanding about who to talk to, about what.”

After her NCTJ training, Anna went onto to work for the BBC and later joined Sky News in 1995.

The award-winning presenter has covered many major events. Anna presented live from Tripoli on the Libya conflict, reported from Portugal on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, covered the Lebanon war live from Israel and in 2005 covered the death of Pope John Paul II from both Poland and Rome.

Anna added: “Breaking news is a real adrenaline rush. Trying to understand and digest the nub of a story quickly is great brain training. Travelling to war-zones, the aftermath of a tsunami or earthquake, seeing history being made through revolution, is all an absolute privilege.

“But fundamentally it’s our job to put difficult questions to those in authority, where members of the public cannot.”

Nadine White

Nadine White

Race correspondent, The Independent

Nadine White

Nadine White

Race correspondent, The Independent

Former Journalism Diversity Fund recipient Nadine White joined The Independent in 2021 as the first dedicated race correspondent in UK journalism.

Nadine is well known for amplifying perspectives from within marginalised communities through her reporting.

In 2020, she won the Engine Mischief #30towatch Young Journalist award for her coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before joining The Independent, she worked as a news reporter at HuffPost UK, covering current affairs, race and social issues.

At HuffPost UK, she published an investigation into the SPAC Nation pioneering church and how it creates the conditions for fraudsters to flourish within its ranks.

Nadine, who studied at News Associates in London, said: “I decided to venture into journalism to help be the change I wanted to see.

“But my passion for journalism has never been just for me; it’s very much for communities like mine – and everyone who wants to learn more about the world in which we live.

“That’s the key reason why I report so heavily on marginalised perspectives.”

Haroon Siddique

Haroon Siddique

Legal affairs correspondent, The Guardian

Haroon Siddique

Haroon Siddique

Legal affairs correspondent, The Guardian

Haroon Siddique is the Guardian’s legal affairs correspondent.

Haroon completed his NCTJ training in 2004 and went on to pass his senior exams in 2005 while he worked at the Highbury and Islington Express.

He said: “I wouldn’t have got my first job at a local paper if I hadn’t undertaken NCTJ training. It was that job that acted as the platform for me to get work at the BBC, ITN and eventually the Guardian.

“I apply what I learned every day, whether it is shorthand, legal training or other aspects, and all the skills I developed have become second nature to me. Without them I wouldn’t be able to do my job.

“NCTJ training was an invaluable introduction to the skills needed to be a news reporter. Like many people I thought I could write reasonably well but there is an art to structuring a coherent and informative news article that becomes much clearer with tuition.

“The course stimulated my desire to be a journalist and by the end of my training I felt confident that I had the tools at my disposal to be one.

“Shorthand can be incredibly frustrating to learn but it is immensely useful, despite a perception among some people that it is a dying art because of digital recorders etc. It is essential for covering court cases but I also find it indispensable for interviews as it is much quicker to transcribe than a recorded interview where you have to keep starting and stopping the recording while playing it back.

“Although there is more than one route into journalism, having NCTJ training is a badge of quality that employers recognise. It says to the employer that you have the fundamental skills needed to be a journalist, which is difficult to prove otherwise.

“It is a sign to the employer that they can send you out on a story and you will be capable of understanding who you need to approach to obtain a balanced article, be able to take accurate quotes and understand any legal issues arising from the story.”

David Jones

David Jones

Presenter, Sky Sports

David Jones

David Jones

Presenter, Sky Sports

David Jones is a Sky Sports presenter who completed his NCTJ training at Sheffield College.

David started his journalism career as a news reporter with the Derbyshire Times covering crime and local politics.

After being drafted across to the sports desk, he then joined Sky for the launch of Sky Sports News in 1998, where he enjoyed a long and successful career.

He currently hosts Sky Sports’ biggest live football shows, Super Sunday and Monday Night Football.

He said: “Sport, or indeed television, hadn’t been on my work agenda but when I stumbled upon a Guardian advert inviting applicants for the launch of a new sports news channel at Sky TV I couldn’t resist.

“My background and training gave me a huge advantage over colleagues recruited from production houses, television magazine shows and sport. I could smell a story, I knew the questions to ask, I knew what we could get away with and I could write copy as ‘crisp as crackling bacon’ as my NCTJ journalism tutor in Sheffield used to put it!

“When I was standing face to face with an irate Sir Alex Ferguson I would draw on my confrontations with the intellectual giant Tony Benn; when sparring with Gordon Strachan I would recall the death knocks in Derbyshire which prepare you for anything.

“I’m still leaning on the same principles; the paramount importance of accuracy, checking scripts, checking facts, double checking statistics.

“And I still see the NCTJ qualification as a badge of honour in myself and in others. I’ve got the best job in the world but would it have been possible without the NCTJ?

“Not a chance.”

Nick Owen

Nick Owen

Presenter, BBC Midlands Today

Nick Owen

Nick Owen

Presenter, BBC Midlands Today

Nick Owen is a regional and national television journalist who is currently a presenter on BBC Midlands Today.

He began his journalism career with the Doncaster Evening Post, where he completed his NCTJ training, and has fond memories of his time there.

Nick said: “I had an eight-week block release NCTJ course in Sheffield during my two years on the paper and I am still grateful for what I learnt there. The course was well run, interesting and extremely educational for someone who was rather naive about the wider world, as I was then. It was also good fun being with so many likeminded individuals for that period of time!

“It was there that I learned shorthand which was, of course, immediately invaluable, whether I was attending a court hearing or a council meeting or just snatching a doorstep interview. However, it is still a vital tool for me today, even though I have been predominantly a TV presenter, rather than a reporter, for more than 40 years.”

Nick then joined the Birmingham Post and then BBC Radio Birmingham before joining ATV Network’s sports department to cover the World Cup in 1982.

Within eight weeks Nick had taken over the main presenting role in partnership with Anne Diamond and they continued to present the programme together for several years.

Nick renewed his partnership with Anne Diamond in 1992 when he moved to the BBC to co-present Good Morning with Anne and Nick. The programme ran for 600 episodes until 1996. He is now a presenter on BBC Midlands Today.

Nick believes his NCTJ training has helped him throughout his career, adding: “The NCTJ also gave me a valuable grounding in public affairs, the way the ‘system’ works and, of course, a grasp of media law is vital. All these ingredients are pivotal for the profession, absolutely basic, and I believe that NCTJ training is a must for any aspiring journalist.”

In 2006 Nick was awarded the Baird Medal by the Royal Television Society, Midlands, for lifelong achievement in television.

Rianna Croxford

Rianna Croxford

Correspondent, BBC News

Rianna Croxford

Rianna Croxford

Correspondent, BBC News

Rianna Croxford is an award-winning correspondent for BBC News.

Rianna was the first in her family to go to university and graduated with a degree in English from the University of Cambridge, where she got involved in student journalism.

Rianna completed her NCTJ training in 2018 at PA Media in London with a bursary from the Journalism Diversity Fund, of which she says “I wouldn’t be a journalist today without it.”

Alongside her course, Rianna worked at the Financial Times as an intern covering UK news and politics.

She joined the BBC in the summer of 2018 as a trainee broadcast journalist, before becoming a community affairs correspondent. She now specialises in investigations.

John Pienaar

John Pienaar

Drive presenter, Times Radio

John Pienaar

John Pienaar

Drive presenter, Times Radio

John Pienaar is a presenter for Times Radio, having previously worked as deputy political editor for BBC News.

John began his career at the South London Press, completing his NCTJ training at Highbury College.

He then worked as a political correspondent for The Independent from its launch in 1986 before moving to the BBC where he spent time as the political correspondent on BBC’s News at Ten. He moved to Radio 5 Live in 2002 and was BBC News’ deputy political editor between 2015 and 2020.

Speaking about his training, John said: “The public administration course is one of the best lasting memories of my time at Portsmouth. David Kett’s enthusiasm for politics was so contagious and frankly I’ve never shaken off the infection.”

Sophy Ridge speaking at the NCTJ Awards for Excellence 2017

Sophy Ridge

Presenter, Sky News

Sophy Ridge speaking at the NCTJ Awards for Excellence 2017

Sophy Ridge

Presenter, Sky News

Sophy Ridge is a Sky News presenter, fronting her flagship show Ridge on Sunday. Previously she was a presenter on Sky News Tonight and senior political correspondent for the channel based in Westminster.

While covering politics Sophy exclusively broke the news that Jeremy Corbyn had won the Labour leadership contest in 2015 and that Ed Miliband would resign as leader of the Labour Party after the 2015 election result.

Since joining Sky News, Sophy has interviewed politicians from David Cameron to Theresa May and broadcast from countries including Afghanistan, the U.S. and Brazil.

Previously to joining Sky News in 2011, she worked for the News of the World focusing on political, business and consumer stories.

Sophy has won numerous journalism awards including broadcaster of the year at the Words by Women Awards in 2016, the MHP 30 Under 30 Gold Award, and was shortlisted as Young Journalist of the Year in the Royal Television Society awards in 2013.

She is a keen contributor to the Sky News website and iPad app and enjoys using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to widen the news provider’s audience.

John Inverdale

John Inverdale

Sports broadcaster

John Inverdale

John Inverdale

Sports broadcaster

John Inverdale has presented a variety of sports programmes including Grandstand, the Wimbledon Championships and his own BBC One sports chat show, Onside.

After studying an NCTJ-accredited postgraduate course at the University of Wales Institute, John began his career as a reporter on the Lincolnshire Echo. He then moved to radio, working as a sports reporter for BBC Radio 2 and a news reporter on the Today programme for Radio 4.

Speaking about his training, John said: “Without the invaluable help of an NCTJ course in terms of shorthand, legal knowledge, and journalistic common sense, my broadcasting career would have been considerably the poorer.”

When asked about the specific skills a sports reporter must have, he said: “I cannot emphasise how important accuracy is to a sports reporter – you have to get names right, which often when covering international sporting events is no easy task. You have to get match timing right, when a try was scored, who the scorer was and how it impacted on the scoreboard.

“Not only do you have to be accurate, you have to be quick, pulling together in-depth reports for broadcast at half-time and full-time, usually within seconds of the referee’s whistle. Accuracy and fast work are a tough combination – but it can be done and it was on an NCTJ course that I first developed these skills.”

John also stressed how the course helped to enhance his interviewing skills – a crucial part of his work as a sports broadcaster. “How do you approach an excited, jubilant player who has just won a big tennis match or a huge despondent rugby international who has just suffered a crushing defeat? You need to know how to talk to people, and the first steps I took toward gaining this skill were during my NCTJ training.”

Helen Skelton

Helen Skelton

Television presenter

Helen Skelton

Helen Skelton

Television presenter

Helen Skelton is a television presenter, and has formerly presented programmes such as Blue Peter and Newsround.

She completed her NCTJ training on the BA (Hons) journalism course at the University of Cumbria.

Helen began her career in local radio before joining the BBC, becoming breakfast presenter of BBC Radio Cumbria.

She said: “Without NCTJ law and public affairs I would have really struggled to get any work experience, which ultimately led to my first proper job in broadcasting. With those certificates under my belt my editor thought I was a safer pair of hands and less likely to land him in court.

“Aside from its usefulness, shorthand seems to be one of those things that commands respect. I genuinely haven’t met a successful journalist who hasn’t at one time used it.

“Once I had my NCTJ qualifications I found that I could make myself useful in a newsroom, I had a better grasp of local politics and could make more sense of stories. I didn’t embarrass myself by saying things that were illegal and by using my Teeline I could keep up with court proceedings and meetings. They are practical qualifications that are relevant and respected.”

Mark Austin

Mark Austin

Presenter, Sky News

Mark Austin

Mark Austin

Presenter, Sky News

TV presenter Mark Austin, currently working for Sky News, is best known as the former co-presenter of ITV’s News at Ten and the ITV Evening News.

He was one of the first British journalists to report on the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and has covered other major worldwide events including the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan.

During a distinguished career at ITV, Mark has worked as Asia correspondent in Hong Kong and African correspondent in Johannesburg. While there, he reported on the transition from apartheid to democracy, Nelson Mandela’s 1994 election victory and the genocide in Rwanda.

Originally promoted to anchor ITV’s Evening News programme, Mark later replaced Sir Trevor McDonald on News at Ten after the veteran newsreader announced his decision to step down at the end of 2008.

Mark completed an NCTJ course at Highbury College and began his journalism career as a reporter for the Bournemouth Echo. He then worked as both a news and sports reporter for the BBC, before being offered a position as sports correspondent for ITN.

He said: “The NCTJ newspaper training course at Highbury was the best possible grounding for my early career in local newspapers and has served me well in broadcasting ever since.

“It is difficult to imagine a course more relevant to what I went on to do and that surely is the ultimate test.

“The shorthand, a sort of Teeline/Austin hieroglyphics hybrid, proved a job saver on many a court or council meeting story. After all there are only so many times you phone a local paper rival for exact quotes!”

Key numbers

The most important feature of NCTJ qualifications is employability, they open the doors to a whole range of careers in the media sector. Don’t just take our word for it, we think the numbers speak for themselves!

  • 81%

    of qualified journalists hold an NCTJ qualification

  • 90%

    of students who achieve the NCTJ gold standard diploma (A-C in all subjects and 100wpm shorthand if taken) are working in journalism six to ten months after finishing their course

  • 81%

    of alumni working in journalism believe the NCTJ diploma prepared them well for work

Hear from NCTJ alumni

Read first-hand accounts from recent graduates in a range of jobs in our journalism careers guide.

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