Following Leeds Student’s Online Media Awards nomination for ‘Best Local/Regional News Site’ – alongside the likes of the Manchester Evening News and Liverpool Echo – editor Lizzie Edmonds discusses whether student media can go toe to toe with the professionals…
Angelina’s got her leg out, Adele’s exercised her middle finger and the Daily Mail’s ‘side bar of shame’ has gone into overdrive in its mission to show us all how dreadful everyone looks on the red carpet. It’s that time of year: it’s award season.
And in between the emotional speeches and some very undignified losers on Twitter, student newspaper editors across the country are rapidly bringing together a year’s worth of hard graft in the desperate hope to impress Rusbridger et al at the Guardian Media Awards. With work experience and therefore access to the Guardian fortress given to the winners, these are the equivalent to our Oscars, judged by some of the most terrifying critics in England.
As editor of the Leeds Student Newspaper, for the past two weeks my team and I have been umm-ing and ahh-ing over which paper to send for the biggest award of the night -‘Student Publication of the Year’ – tearing our hair out trying to decide which issue is the most impressive, which one meets the brief, which is the least embarrassing or clichéd. In all honesty, the very thought of these respected journalists reading some of our lesser work is pretty nauseating and consequently, the picking process was a highly emotional journey.
Yet in amongst this blind Guardian panic (it really wasn’t as erratic as I’ve made out, honest) there arrives a surprise. Back in Easter, on a little bit of a whim, we applied to the Online Media Awards for ‘Best Local/Regional News Site’ and low and behold we were named as finalists. Up there with the Manchester Evening News and the Liverpool Echo is little old Leeds Student looking, in all honesty, a little rough around the edges but we’re there. And boy oh boy I was full of pride: drunk on happiness, I even tweeted about it in block capitals.
Trust me, it is very tempting to show off about the nomination (arguably I already have done, granted) and perhaps even get a little carried away. I could sit here and write something entirely obnoxious along the lines of: ‘I knew it all along: student media is as good as the nationals’ or maybe ‘We’re nipping at the heels of tired local websites, giving them a run for their money.’
Now not only will that be a bit embarrassing when/if we don’t win, but it’s kind of missing the point. Our nomination certainly does prove that there’s new talent at University but more importantly that we should all grab the chance to be experimental whilst on a student paper, then aim to get some acknowledgment for these achievements. There’s little or no point skirting along without trying to push ourselves as ‘wannabe journos.’ Of course, catastrophic mistakes will be made but we all learn something along the way. If you leave your student newspaper with a bit of a hangover and not much else, you’ve really missed a trick.
Also, as is painfully clear as soon as one steps into a ‘proper’ newsroom, there will be no other time in your professional life where someone important gives you a slab of money and says ‘Do what you’d like to do with it. Ipad? Perfect! Website: go for it’. It’s not that student media rivals professional nationals, but more that we’ve got the time and energy to experiment with technology that they may not be able to. And it’s our responsibility to grab that with both hands.