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Examiners highlight factual inaccuracies in news report

Factual inaccuracies in the news report section and lack of story structure in the news interview were among problems highlighted by the examiners in their report on the November NCE.

Other issues flagged up in the report included interviewing style and careless mistakes in relation to statistics.

However the November submission of logbooks – in which journalists present a portfolio of their best stories – produced a 100pc success rate for the first time in a number of years.

Here’s a summary of how the candidates performed in each section and what the judges said.

News Interview

Candidates: 89
Passed: 52
Pass rate: 58pc

The news interview section was based around a story about a gas leak which caused an explosion in a shopping mall, trapping a young worker under debris and resulting in a miracle escape for a toddler.

Examiners said most candidates managed to get the blast and the trapped worker in the intro, followed quickly with the woman and child angle. However, some did not mention the trapped worker until half way through the story.

“Overall there were some good efforts but candidates who did not pass need to examine their story structures and interviewing styles,” said the examiners report.

“Some candidates did not get a grip of the incident, even though when they asked their opening “what happened?” question, they were given the drama on a plate. This was a major incident in a town and some candidates failed to see the “bigger picture” and jumped around with their chronology.”

News Report

Candidates: 98
Passed: 55
Pass rate: 56pc

The news report involved an upbeat story about action by Britain’s third largest airport to prevent disruption during heavy snow.

Candidates were expected to detail the airport’s £32m action plan, put it into context with the weather forecast and include some information about the chaos and problems which had occurred the previous winter.

“Factual inaccuracies were all too common in this exam. Some of the errors made by candidates were changing the cost of the project to £132m or £20m. Many more careless mistakes were noted, particularly pertaining to statistics causing concern that trainees could be making equally serious errors in the workplace,” said the examiners.

“Those trainees who did get to grips with the story made a valiant effort in combining the various threads to craft readable, newsy and informative stories.”

Newspaper Practice

Candidates: 91
Passed: 55
Pass rate: 60pc

This section of the exam is designed as a test of newspaper law and ethics and their application to news reporting. It has also tested candidates’ abilities to pursue stories for a variety of media outlets.

Questions were designed to reflect the problems reporters face in their everyday working lives.

The examiners said a number of candidates did not provide enough probing of their sources to enable them to come up with full coverage of the issues, while opportunities for photographs and commercial development were regularly missed.

“In future, the re-worked Newspaper Practice exam will have greater emphasis on the ethical and regulatory aspect of being a reporter and trainees will need to have a good knowledge of the PCC code, or whatever replaces it post-Leveson, to be able to argue sensibly the ethical problems of tackling stories,” they said.


Candidates: 56
Passed: 56
Pass rate: 100pc

The November submission of logbooks – in which journalists present a portfolio of their best stories – produced a 100pc success rate for the first time in a number of years.

Examinders said the candidates appeared to have grasped the essentials with no major problems faced by the markers.

“Key tasks which have proved problematical such as numeracy and major incidents were completed with no issues,” said the report.

“Candidates are reminded that should they have any questions or problems ahead of submitting their logbook, staff at the NCTJ and the NCE logbook moderator are happy to help and provide any advice as necessary.”


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  • December 19, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Factual inaccuracies? If something is factual it cannot be inaccurate. Similarly, if something is inaccurate it cannot be factual. Facts, by definition, are true.

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  • December 20, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Spot on! And while we’re at it, a news story is not “based around” anything. It is BASED on, the details REVOLVE around it. You just can’t get the staff these days !!!

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  • December 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Getting the facts wrong? How true. On my local paper one of the reporters even managed to place the Civic Centre in the wrong road. Gone are the days when all papers had more than one experienced senior reporter and sub to pick up these errors. They are all too young with no experience or local knowledge. Who is there to teach them the mantra Get It First, Get It Right, First Time? Even the nationals aren’t perfect any more. I guess that makes me pedantic as well.

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  • December 21, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    How can these examiners possibly criticise candidates when they themselves can’t dispense with hoary old chestnuts such as “miracle escape”?
    There’s no such thing as a miracle escape. Miracle is a noun, not an adjective. If these so-called experts feel the need to stick with such hackneyed cliches they could at least refer to the incident in question as “a miraculous escape”.

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