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November NQJ: Answers need more ‘local colour’ say examiners

Would-be seniors are showing greater “national and global awareness” of issues but need to add more ‘local colour’ according to National Qualification in Journalism examiners.

The November sitting of the exam yielded a pass rate of 76pc with 25 out of 33 candidates achieving senior status.

In their report, the examiners praised the “outstanding” performance by Tamara Siddiqui of Portsmouth daily The News for achieving the best mark in three out of the four papers.

But while candidates’ knowledge of national and global issues was praised, the examiners highlighted a need for more awareness of local angles in compiling the news report section.

The examiners also pointed to a “flimsy” knowledge of the law on confidentiality and highlighted “avoidable mistakes” in the news interview section of the exam.

Here is a summary of their comments in each section.


Candidates: 21
Passed: 17
Pass rate: 81pc

Examiners hailed a “pleasing set of papers, with few failing and an excellent top result.”

Most candidates spotted the defamatory aspects contained in a press release from a residents’ association, but it was “worrying” that some thought it would gain qualified privilege, the examiners’ report said.

One question concerned comments on a website which revealed details of a child’s heart condition, with examiners praising answers which recognised the need to approach the family to seek further details and permissions.

Candidates were also advised to read up on IPSO rulings with the report highlighting the fact that these are regularly covered on both HoldtheFrontPage and Press Gazette.


Candidates: 32
passed: 25
Pass rate: 78pc

The examiners said the higher pass rate for the news report in November showed that candidates are having “a greater national/global awareness for news stories.”

But they criticised candidates for demoting strong local angles about a flooding incident in the North-East to lower down the story and failing to add “local colour.”

“National news had broken the flooding problems and what the reader wanted was a comprehensive summary of the local situation – this was lacking in many stories,” said the report.

“Local issues were demoted to lower parts of the story, if they were mentioned at all. Only a few candidates filled their stories with local colour and aspects of the disaster that readers would want to know.”


Candidates: 28
Passed: 20
Pass rate: 71pc

The news interview paper concerned an incident in which a man with learning difficulties was attacked and seriously hurt by a gorilla at a city zoo.

Examiners said that while most candidates appeared comfortable with the story, some lacked details of the actual attack and failed to capture the drama.

“While many candidates grasped the story, some were let down by avoidable mistakes; one said the gorilla was sedated, another said it was shot with a tranquilliser gun. Neither were accurate. There were also avoidable spelling mistakes,” said the report.

“Again, shorthand appears to be an issue with one-or two-word quotes included in candidates’ stories. However, it was pleasing to see evidence of some capable writing and a high number of candidates passing the exam.”


Candidates: 15
Passed: 15
Pass rate: 100pc

The e-logbooks section which involves candidates submitting an electronic portfolio of their work resulted in a 100pc pass mark for the fifth exam running.

Examiners said there were no overall issues to report and some strong marks awarded as candidates provided a depth of quality work.

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  • December 12, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    interesting point because that is precisely what is lacking in so many local papers. It might be because so many local paper offices have shut and there are no local reporters any more, with papers being written 20 miles or more from the patch. Stories lack context, historical background and suchlike and too often are just shallow re-written press releases. Many of these juniors have probably come across that as they are chained to their computer 30 miles from the place they are trying to write about. Good luck to them in their careers. My advice is try to get out more!

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