Three Sunderland students have been shortlisted for awards at an annual ceremony which celebrates the achievements of individuals with promising journalism careers ahead of them.

The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) Awards for Excellence are open to students, trainees and apprentices in news, sports, top scoop, features and multimedia categories.

This year’s ceremony takes place at the Stadium of Light tomorrow (Nov 28) – in the midst of the NCTJ’s Journalism Skills Conference, which is being hosted by the University of Sunderland.

Theofanis Pegkas has been nominated for a News Journalism award, Jason Button is in the Sports Journalism category, while Mariam Khattab is shortlisted in the features category.

All three students have demonstrated an outstanding body of work during their course, producing a range of excellent news stories.

As a young woman, Mariam Khattab watched revolution unfold in her native Egypt and dreamed of becoming a journalist. After moving to the UK, she graduated from Sunderland with a First Class degree and NCTJ to Gold Standard.

As part of her final project at Sunderland she produced a portfolio of work exploring human rights across the globe – from the UK Muslims who have been shunned by their families and communities for their homosexuality, to the photojournalist and Time Person of the Year who was jailed for criticising his home government, and the star-crossed couple who found love after persecution at the height of the Arab Spring revolution.

The stories make full use of interactive multimedia elements to create powerful narratives and Mariam has developed a vast network of international contacts as a result.

Neil McFarlane, Senior Lecturer in Online Journalism, said: “Mariam showed dogged persistence to get these stories, and often needed to conduct interviews over secure networks with people who still live in hostile environments. She showed real bravery to even contemplate a project on this topic, as this kind of robust reporting could carry significant risk to herself and her family back home.

“Mariam’s tenacity is inspiring. This portfolio demonstrates the kind of exemplary reporting she is capable of, and I have no doubt she will go on to have a brilliant career, wherever that may be.”

In the final year of Jason Button’s Sports Journalism undergraduate degree, his practical project was on fan culture and identity within sport – essentially the sociology of sport. This covered national identity, cultural identity, right wing and left wing fan groups. John Price, who heads up the programme, suggested he submit his project for the NCTJ Awards for Excellence.

Jason, a Mediahub intern up in the Media Centre on Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter’s, said: “Just to be on the final shortlist is unbelievable and I can’t wait for the ceremony on Thursday. It’s just really lucky how this year the whole event is up here in Sunderland.

“Being part of the final list of names is fantastic and I’m so pleased to be involved. Anything else on top of this would be unbelievable but I’m trying to not get ahead of myself as I know there is a lot of fierce competition.”

Broadcast Journalism graduate Theofanis Pegkas, from Greece, has already picked up two prestigious Royal Television Society awards winning the Student News category in 2018 and 2019. His reports focussed on an anti-Trump demonstration in Newcastle and a feature on Greek unemployment.

He has now started a new job in his home country with Alpha TV working as a journalist on a show which investigates missing people and strange deaths.

Theofanis has been nominated in the News Journalism category. His documentary focussed on the movement of Syrian refugees through Greece and on the island of Lesbos in particular. Working alone he gained access to the refugee camp and spoke to those at the heart of the humanitarian crisis.

Andrew Glover, Programme Leader for Broadcast Journalism, said: “It was a remarkable piece of work produced to a very high standard with a compelling story at its centre. Theo worked hard to track down one particular family who eventually left the camp and settled in Athens to start a new life.”

The NCTJ awards are being presented by Sky Sports Premier League presenter David Jones and sponsored by The Independent. Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a Q&A with Kevin Maguire, associate editor of the Daily Mirror and Visiting Professor at Sunderland, during a drinks reception.

Lee Hall, Head of School of Media & Communications, said: “These graduates are bursting with talent and their achievements reflect well on the outstanding teaching they have received at Sunderland.

“All three of them are bold, persistent and willing to tackle challenging issues – from migrants risking their lives on the open sea to being gay, Muslim and proud.

“Mariam, Theo and Jason have already shown themselves to be among the brightest young reporters in the country by being shortlisted for these prestigious national awards.”