Meet the young media stars of the future

Student journalism's equivalent of the Oscars are awarded next month. Will Leeds Student scoop the big prizes again, or will the accolades fall to a hot new contender? By Ben Russell
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The Independent Online

Leeds tops the nominations table in the second annual National Student Journalism Awards, run jointly by The Independent and the National Union of Students.

Leeds tops the nominations table in the second annual National Student Journalism Awards, run jointly by The Independent and the National Union of Students.

Leeds Student, the paper for Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan Universities, has been nominated in five categories, heading a table of more than 20 publications whose writers, editors and designers are in the running for awards. More than 400 student journalists entered this year, reflecting the huge number of undergraduates working in print and online journalism on campuses across Britain.

Leeds, which lifted the award for best paper in 1999, is followed in the nominations league by The Steel Press from Sheffield, nomnated in three categories. Also in the running for a second year is The Saint from St Andrews, nominated as best small-budget publication after winning the award last year.

Overall, eight papers have been nominated twice in the 11 categories, set up to reflect the range of skills that can be found in today's student media.

The awards, which will be announced at a gala ceremony at King's College in London's the Strand on 18 November, have already proved a stepping-stone into the competitive world of newspapers, television and electronic publishing for many of last year's winners.

Roy Delaney, a former courier, builder and roadie who once worked for a punk band called Improbable Manslaughter, is now a professional showbusiness journalist after coming runner-up in the best sports reporter category last year.

Roy, 35, had edited the University of the West of England paper Westworld before entering the Independent/NUS awards. He now writes about film for an entertainment website, dailyradar.co.uk, run by Bath-based magazine giant Future Publishing, and hopes to become a magazine editor.

"I write film reviews and pieces about film culture and history," says Roy, who graduated with a degree in media and culture before becoming a sabbatical editor. "The award makes people look twice and think you're half-way decent. It shows you can write, especially with a newspaper name like The Independent on it."

In Crouch End, north London, Tim Dewhurst, last year's feature writer of the year, is carving out a niche as a freelance writer. A systems analysis graduate, Tim cast aside thoughts of a job in computing when he won the Independent award.

Tim, who moved to London two months ago to be nearer the heart of Britain's media industry, has had articles published by The Independent and by internet publishers. He has given himself two years to become established in the tough world of freelance writing.

"I was very surprised when I won, because my stuff was really comedy writing, so I did not think I would win anything. It had quite a dramatic effect on me. I did a computing degree and I was looking to get into that field. It had never occurred to me that I could get into writing.

"I had to decide whether I wanted to spend my life digging around behind people's desks among the cables. The award gave me confidence to try writing. When you work on a student paper, it's very difficult to know whether something is good or not."

Both writers are part of this year's panel of judges, which - in addition to experienced journalists from some of the country's leading newspapers and magazines - also includes former student editors. The presence of previous award winners is intended to ensure that the decisions reflect the realities of running a small publication on a tight budget with volunteer contributors.

The panel includes Simon Kelner, editor-in-chief of The Independent; Peter Wilby, editor of the New Statesman; Caitlin Moran, columnist for The Times; Jane Bruton, editor of Living etc; NME/Melody Maker art director Matt Pahre; Tom Pilston, photographer on The Independent; and the writer, broadcaster and Independent columnist David Aaronovitch - appropriately enough, a president of the NUS in a former life.

The huge popularity of the awards reflects the boom in student media, with the biggest student papers now rivalling some professional local publications in terms of size, readership and even budget.

There are now more than 250 college newspapers and magazines around the country, with a combined circulation running into hundreds of thousands. The number of students turning their hand to production and writing makes journalism second only to sport in popularity on campus

The categories in the National Student Journalism Awards include best newspaper, magazine, website and campaign; in addition, there are individual awards for the best news and feature writers, sports and arts journalists, photographers and designers.

The dozens of tiny publications that operate on just a few hundred pounds a year are also recognised alongside the big-budget players, with a small-budget category for publications with less than £5,000 a year to play with.

Winners stand to gain cash prizes of £400, plus the chance of two weeks' work experience at The Independent.

A 21-day "busabout" hop-on, hop-off coach pass, worth over £200, is also being offered to all category winners, courtesy of usitCAMPUS, the specialist in student and youth travel.

The National Union of Students president, Owain James, who is a member of the judging panel, says: "The press has a very important part to play on campus, informing students about local issues and providing news about what the university is doing."

The top stories for the year include a string of articles on student accommodation, telephones and other on-campus consumer issues, and also reflect the high level of concern among students about university league tables and the standard of degrees.

Owain James adds: "Many universities are incredibly fearful of what student journalists write, and that is because they put together publications of a very high standard.

"There is also a tremendous amount of hard work being put in by thousands of people who give up their own time - and even some of their studies - to bring papers out.

"The awards are excellent, and are an opportunity to recognise the increasing excellence of student journalism.

"We are delighted to be working with The Independent to get that recognition of quality."

12 October 2000

b.russell@independent.co.uk

 

The award winners and runners up will be announced at a ceremony at King's College London, in the Strand, on 18 November. The evening will be the highlight of the annual NUS Student Media conference

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