AddThis SmartLayers

Trainees not getting enough help say examiners

Journalism training bosses have questioned whether trainees are getting enough help in their day to day work after a 6pc year-on-year drop in the pass rate for the seniors’ exam.

Only 42 of the 100 candidates who sat last month’s National certificate Examination passed compared to a 48pc pass rate a year ago.

In his report, the chief examiner Steve Nelson highlighted a lack of accuracy as the main reason behind the low pass mark said he was “very concerned” at some of the errors.

But he went on to question whether reduced editorial headcounts meant trainees were no longer getting enough one-to-one help.

“It is apparent that many trainees are not getting sufficient help and guidance in their day-to-day work,” he said in his report.

“In today’s busy, pressured newsrooms there is often little time for editors and senior staff to go through stories with trainees, check their understanding of a situation and give advice on structure.”

Steve said he was “very concerned at errors over place names and a speaker’s name, and a description of someone “wearing a baseball bat”.

Here’s our at-a-glance guide to each section of the test and what the examiners thought of the candidates.

News Interview

Candidates: 92
Passed: 57
Pass rate: 62pc

The news interview centred on a story about a lump of concrete thrown from a motorway footbridge onto the car of a star football striker, seriously injuring his pregnant wife.

A motorist had earlier reported seeing two youths running from the motorway bridge after shining a high-powered torch at drivers.

Examiners praised candidates who picked up on the “drama” in the story and for their use of quotes, but said candidates who did not pass needed to examine the structure of their stories.

Their report highlighted some “silly” errors such as the misspelling of the place name and the use of ‘breaked’ instead of ‘braked’ which a number of candidates got wrong.

News Report

Candidates: 87
Passed: 40
Pass rate: 46pc

The news report involved the Olympic Games and the need for a series of planned road closures as a result of the cycling road race which could mean some businesses having to shut down for the day.

Examiners said they were disappointed with the “poor standard” of many of the stories submitted, highlighting insufficient content, inaccuracy, poor shorthand and a lack of news sense.

“Poor shorthand was evident in all but a handful of papers. Few candidates were able to produce a full sentence of quote accurately,” said the examiner’s report.

“Some strung phrases together from parts of the speech and presented them as a direct quote, others inserted words and phrases of their own in a bid to complete a quote. This is unacceptable journalistic practice.”

Newspaper Practice

Candidates: 89
Passed: 47
Pass rate: 53pc

Questions in this section focus on the main aspects of media law that reporters encounter in their normal working lives.

The examiners described it as a “disappointing” set of papers with some candidates scoring less than 40pc.

“Those who had a good knowledge of contempt and defamation, along with court reporting restrictions and the PCC code, had little difficulty coping.  Knowing defamation and contempt dangers and their defences should be ingrained in all reporters’ working practices,” said the report.

“Although some reporters do not attend court as regularly as in the past, they still need to know what restrictions they are likely to face and when to challenge them.”


Candidates: 54
Passed: 52
Pass rate: 96pc

Candidates continued to submit a strong selection of their work in the logbooks section of the exam with the examiners saying there wre “few areas of concern.”

However they highlighted the need for some candidates to look closely at the numeracy section.

“Markers have made clear that evidence of numeracy must be shown in the story and simply reporting figures without giving any interpretation will be marked down severely and can result in a fail,” said the report.

“Candidates are also reminded that the major incidents key task must also refer to something which occurred on patch and of course is not a preview of something which is due to take place.”


You can follow all replies to this entry through the comments feed.
  • August 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    This is another sign of the times. Local newspapers just don’t have the staff to train cub reporters any more. It’s not just the lack of support trainees have to put up with, they have to sustain a living on a salary of between £12,000 and £14,000 which is scandalous in my opinion.

    I was fortunate enough to pass my NCE but there was definitely the added pressure that unless I passed (which for most of us means a pay rise to a better but still relatively low salary) you have to face another three to six months of living on the breadline. Given the rising cost of food, fuel, rent etc why would anyone want to become a local newspaper journalist these days?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • August 9, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    I passed the NCE six months ago at the second attempt. My concern is not the support iI was given, but the way papers are marked.

    It appears a scattergun approach is taken, with examiners not held accountable for how they have marked a paper. Anyone wishing to view a paper must pay £50 for the privilege. However, that only gets you a report, not the original exam paper showing how it was marked.

    Until there is more clarity the NCE will continue to produce inconsistent results. I felt like the exam was trying to catch me out, rather than test my knowledge.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • August 10, 2012 at 9:03 am

    With regard to shorthand in the Olympics story, during a stint on a regional daily which ended last year, junior staff used voice recorders to deal with interviewees both face-to-face and on the phone as a matter of course. Hardly stands them in good stead either for this exam or a courtroom/tribunal situation.

    And Senior Reporter (above), you need to know that sometimes real life catches you out.

    PS: Logbook, 96% pass… good ol’ subs!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • August 10, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Interesting how quiet the bleating brigade are now in response to Steve Nelson’s accurate observation. When will editors actually admit their operations are woefully under-resourced and that reporters operate on goodwill?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)