Student Journalism Awards: All you need is a hunch

Last year's best reporter, Steve Bloomfield, on how to get a scoop
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The Independent Online

There is nothing quite as exhilarating as watching someone walk into a lamppost because they are reading your front-page story in the student paper. A cheap thrill, perhaps, but it's moments like this – and winning The NUS/ Independent's student reporter of the year award – that make up for all those late nights locked in the office until the news pages look just right.

There is nothing quite as exhilarating as watching someone walk into a lamppost because they are reading your front-page story in the student paper. A cheap thrill, perhaps, but it's moments like this – and winning The NUS/ Independent's student reporter of the year award – that make up for all those late nights locked in the office until the news pages look just right.

Being a student reporter can be a daunting task – you are, after all, faced with ensuring that students on campus are aware of everything they need to know, especially the stuff that others would rather they didn't. All this, as well as keeping a social life, a circle of friends, perhaps a relationship, and, of course, doing the degree.

It's in the uncovering and investigative bits that student hackery really comes into its own. We have no budget, very little time and no library of resources at our disposal. But then, all you really need is a hunch, a telephone and an abundance of patience.

The more people that know you're a reporter the better. Everyone has a story, whether they know it or not. One little off-the-cuff comment about beer tasting like sewage led us to the cellar of a university bar, and the revelation that they were selling out-of-date lager.

One off-the-cuff comment about the university's share portfolios led to the realisation that they hadn't published an annual list for more than two years. I'm still not quite sure who eventually sent me the list, but a lot of people knew we were looking for it. Lo and behold, one day it arrived through my front door in a brown paper envelope. It revealed that the university had shares in some of the world's largest arms producers, including BAE, despite previous claims that they'd sold them all.

There are two pieces of advice that some patronising tosser once gave me which have proved pretty useful. So, without wishing to sound like a patronising tosser...

One: people who work in the same organisation don't necessarily like each other, or come to that, the organisation they work for.

Two: always, always save your work on your own floppy disk, which you carry round with you 24/7. I have never known computers to crash as much as the ones in student newspaper offices.

Simple really. Look out for lampposts.

The news reporting award is one of 13 in this year's Independent/NUS awards. You have until 31 July to enter. Other awards are for design, fashion, arts journalism, feature writing, photography, best student newspaper and magazine, and best website; ring 020-7561 6504 or go to http://education.independent.co.uk/ higher/ story.jsp? story=283653 for more details

education@independent.co.uk

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