Comet Letchworth & Baldock reporter JP Asher commended by national training body NCTJ as one of the top four apprentice journalists in the UK

PUBLISHED: 08:24 29 November 2016 | UPDATED: 11:58 01 February 2019

Comet Letchworth & Baldock reporter JP Asher with his wife Dalia at the NCTJ awards night.

Comet Letchworth & Baldock reporter JP Asher with his wife Dalia at the NCTJ awards night.


A member of the Comet’s editorial team has been commended as one of the top four apprentice journalists in the UK by the national training body.

Letchworth & Baldock reporter John Patrick ‘JP’ Asher was one of four journalists shortlisted for the National Council for the Training of Journalists’ annual Apprentice of the Year award, alongside reporters from BBC Scotland, Sky News and the Wolverhampton-based Express & Star.

The BBC’s Rachel Coburn was named the winner at the NCTJ’s Awards for Excellence night in Gosport on Thursday, hosted by BBC deputy political editor John Pienaar – but former soldier JP said just being on the shortlist felt like a victory.

“Winning would have been a bonus,” said JP, who is 25 and studies towards his NCTJ diploma at Lambeth College in London one day a week.

“To be representing my hometown paper up against such opposition was great, and I think it reflects very well on the Comet and the team we have in Stevenage.

“More than anything, I’d like to thank our former editor John Francis for giving me this big chance. Without him none of this would have happened.

“I’d like to stress the quality of the tutors I’ve had at Lambeth, too – I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do this without them.”

JP, who lives in Hitchin with his wife Dalia and small children Thomas and Catherine, applied for his 24-month apprenticeship with the Comet shortly before his return to the UK after years abroad. He was interviewed for and offered the position days after his arrival back in the country in September last year.

After breaking the story of Panama papers firm Mossack Fonseca’s Hitchin-based UK offshoot in April, JP passed his 100 word-per-minute shorthand exam at the first attempt and became the Comet’s designated Letchworth & Baldock reporter in May.

Hosting the awards on Thursday, John Pienaar said: “Those on the shortlist tonight have demonstrated the combination of writing skills, determination and resilience needed to forge a career in journalism. Our expert judging panel was thoroughly impressed by the quality of work submitted.”

Outside journalism, JP is a keen Luton Town football fan, a member of St Mary’s Church in Hitchin and right-back for the Comet’s six-a-side football team.

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