Education: From Our Campus Correspondents ; the Independent Has Got Together with the National Union of Students for Our First National Student Journalism Awards. Sifting through the 500 Entries Is a Hard Task, but It Has Already Revealed the Wealth of Talent on Campus. by Ben Russell

Article excerpt

Oxford and Leeds head the nominations table for the first ever National Student Journalism Awards, organised by The Independent and the National Union of Students. An unprecedented 500 student newspapers, magazines and journalists submitted entries for 11 categories, the biggest ever organised for universities and colleges.

Two titles - Cherwell, the Oxford University student newspaper, and Leeds Student - were shortlisted in five categories. Cherwell won nominations for best newspaper and best small-budget publication, while its writers were nominated for best feature writer and arts journalism.

Leeds Student writers were shortlisted in the features, arts and sports journalism awards. Also riding high is the Steel Press from Sheffield, with nominations in four categories. Gair Rhydd in Cardiff and The Pulse from Sussex were also strong contenders, with three nominations each.

The shortlist, published opposite, represent some of the best of student publishing in Britain, but there was strong competition from a highly accomplished field. Student newspapers and magazines today are hi-tec publications with circulation figures running into tens of thousands.

The biggest newspapers generate thousands of pounds a year in advertising revenue and produce issues large enough to rival many professional weeklies. Some titles are regularly followed up by advertising agencies and commercial newspapers, which pick up stories that they have featured. Other titles concentrate purely on providing a dedicated local service for their readers on campus.

Alongside the big-budget city papers, student editors are still putting out accomplished publications on a tight budget, proving that ideas, rather than cash alone, are what make newspapers and magazines what they are.

Arts journalism proved the most popular category, with about 100 student reviewers jostling for position. But news and features were also strong, with celebrity interviews and exclusive front-page leads abounding. In each category five entries have been shortlisted. In the website award, only one entry met fully the award's tough criteria and is a worthy winner.

The awards, which were launched in the spring, will recognise the very best of student journalism in Britain and will reward the best student newspaper, magazine and website, as well as the best reporter, photographer and feature writer.

But the judging panel will also be looking for the best student arts and sports journalist and the best small-budget publication (less than pounds 5,000).

There is also an award for the best designer, reflecting The Independent's role in transforming the look of British quality newspapers. The best campaign will also be rewarded, to acknowledge the paper, magazine or website which fights for its readers.

Andrew Pakes, president of the National Union of Students, said: "We have been overwhelmed by the number and quality of the entries for the awards. The categories of arts and sports journalism and the small-budget award have really encouraged people to enter."

Sitting in judgement is a distinguished panel of experts. They include Simon Kelner, editor of The Independent; Peter Wilby, editor of the New Statesman; and David Aaronovitch, broadcaster, columnist and former president of the National Union of Students. The panel also includes Andrew Pakes and several former student editors. They will all be looking for publications and stories which are relevant to students today.

Student journalism has boomed in the last decade. There are now more than 250 college newspapers and magazines, with a combined circulation running into hundreds of thousands.

Thousands of students turn their hand to writing, photography and production - making student journalism second only to sport in its popularity on campus.

The wealth of publications are a vital training ground for all aspects of the national media, producing national newspaper editors and scores of respected writers in newspapers, magazines, radio and television. …