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Top trainees scoop 'best in class' prizes

Four top trainees from the UK local press are now each £250 richer after the last round of National Certificate Examinations for 2009.

The quartet were among 106 trainee reporters who, following last month’s exams, have now achieved ‘senior’ status from the National Council for the Training of Journalists.

To qualify for the NCE, trainees must pass four elements – news interview, news report, newspaper practice and logbook – with an award handed out to the best reporter in each one.

  • Click through to read the main news story
  • See here what the examiners said about the candidates
  • Here are the four award winners complete with examiners’ comments:

    James Beal, Bridgwater Mercury

    He said: “I am absolutely delighted to win this prize. I think it shows the value of learning my trade on such a strong local newspaper like the Bridgwater Mercury.”

    The moderator said: “James demonstrates all the core values of a good reporter. “He’s a comprehensive and interested interviewer who knows how to tell a cracking story. His copy has pace and drama from start to finish with a great mix of narrative and emotive quotes.”

    Jenny Grant, Essex Chronicle

    The news report exam centred on the impact a new high-speed rail line would have on the fictional town of Fincham.

    Jenny said: “I’m overjoyed, I really didn’t expect to win the award. I’ve written quite a few stories about railways since I started work as a reporter and I think it really did help to draw on experience.”

    The exam moderator said: “A well-constructed story encompassing all the key points and demonstrating an excellence in shorthand.”

    Samuel Blackledge, Surrey Advertiser

    Sam said: “It’s a nerve wracking experience sitting the NCE and the newspaper practice is the first exam, so it’s important to get a good start.

    “I felt I was very well prepared by the refresher course I attended, the trainer gave me so many useful pointers.”

    The moderator said: “A very impressive paper in which the candidate combined a very good law answer with two excellent practice answers.

    “What was particularly impressive was the breadth and quality of ideas Samuel came up with for the scenarios in the questions.”

    Jonathan Birkin, Derby Telegraph

    Jonathan said: “I found the logbook a very useful exercise when you are training. To know you have the logbook to complete makes you work to a high standard, it makes you a better journalist.”

    The chief examiner said: “This was a hugely impressive logbook and a clear winner. The presentation was superb and the copy was clean with very few changes.”

    Special mention was also made of Catherine Dalton, from West Midlands daily the Express and Star, who did not win any of the individual exam prizes but did achieved the highest overall NCE mark.

    Winners of two annual awards for outstanding performance in the NCE have also been anounced.

  • The Pamela Meyrick Award, for the best candidate from a newspaper in North Wales or the North of England, went to Victoria Carr, of the Harrogate Advertiser and Wetherby News. Pamela was the first woman reporter on the Rochdale Observer from 1944 to 1948 before moving to London to work on magazines.
  • The TS Murray award, for the best candidate from a Scottish newspaper, was awarded to Leanna MacLarty of the Press and Journal, in Aberdeen. This prize is presented by the Society of Editors (Scotland).