News & Awards

Newcastle Graduate Awarded The NCTJ Alumni of the Month

Rosa McMahon is the assistant editor of real life features at the Press Association.

The 26-year-old started as a trainee reporter at the Eastern Daily Press inNorfolk in 2012 after completing her NCTJ exams at PA training in Newcastle.

She passed her National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) exams in 2014 and was made broads and tourism correspondent before moving to London this year.

“My journalism career started in a friend’s living room at university in Birmingham over a cup of tea – what else.

“As a first year politics and sociology student, I was persuaded to join the student newspaper Redbrick and write for its comment and features team and within a year I was the editor of the section.

“It whet my appetite, I knew I wanted to write for newspapers or magazines, but just needed someone to pay me...

“When I graduated, I applied to my local paper, the Eastern Daily Press, in Norwich for work experience.

“Soon one week turned into three there, and after some relentless emails about possible jobs to the news editor, I was offered the opportunity to train in Newcastle and return to Norwich as a qualified reporter.

“What I learnt in Newcastle on the NCTJ course still echoes in my head today.

“Shorthand, public affairs, media law, how to work a news patch – and even what makes a decent door knock – are bread and butter skills no journalist should be without.

“The course was not easy, but, looking back, without the drumming of the importance of accuracy, tenacity and a good news-nose, I’m not sure I would hold those qualities in such high esteem.

“When I was a roving reporter in Norfolk, I was often asked why journalists still use shorthand.

“The blood, sweat and tears it takes to learn it is one reason! But there’s the time spared to recording an interview and its standing in court too.

“It’s a skill you just cannot fake. Our shorthand teacher would know if you were out at the pub the night before - your outlines would tell the whole story.

“I returned to the EDP newsroom after the 17-weeks feeling desperate to get reporting. I had so much to learn, and still do.

“As a local reporter my job was so varied. From interviewing David Miliband in the back of a taxi, using the inside light to check my notes, and working 13 hours during election night, to holding a carrot above a photographer’s head so the horse would look at the camera for his perfect picture.

“There are those stories you work relentlessly to get, the sky-punching moments where your legal knowledge gets the information you are entitled to, or humbling times when a grieving mother trusts you enough to share her story.

“I completed my senior exams with the NCTJ and moved to the Press Association earlier this year, joining the exciting exclusive features team.

“We supply extraordinary real life tales to national women's magazines, national newspapers and websites worldwide.

“I am also deputy editor of Time Inc.'s Pick Me Up specials magazines, which are produced by PA.

“I think journalism is a vocation, where learning on the job is key.

“Being NCTJ-trained is a hallmark of competence and accuracy - and having one of the best jobs going.”

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Loretta Thomas

'I arrived knowing nothing and left feeling knowledgeable about what is required of me to approach my desired career in journalism'

Loretta Thomas // London-based freelance reporter

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