GSMA – Kingston Uni: we won “because we took risks”


Lara O’Reilly is former editor of Kingston University’s River newspaper + now a reporter at Marketing Week…

Winning is sometimes far sweeter when you are not expecting it at all.

Hours before the event two nights ago news was spreading around Twitter that there had been an apparent leak of the Guardian Student Media Awards results.

According to the rumours a press release was sent to current editors of the nominated student publications asking if they would like photos of the event – oh and revealing the winner and runner-up of each category.

Kingston Uni Team

Lara O'Reilly and Callum Hornigold

We didn’t know the result for sure; everyone on Twitter was respecting the embargo, but there were plenty of smug-sounding tweets from certain students who seemed to already know the result.

We practiced our gracious losing smiles on the tube to the Guardian offices, still overjoyed that we had been nominated at all.

The ceremony was small, fun and informal – more like a networking event than an awards show, with everyone chatting to students from other publications and introducing themselves to a few of the journos associated with the event.

When the Publication of Year category was introduced, the truth slowly started to unravel. Jon Snow popped up on the television screen explaining the winning publication had never been nominated in the awards’ history.

We didn’t really hear anything after that; we were too busy hugging and jumping up and down. Getting our photo taken with Alan Rusbridger and Matt Wells on stage was surreal and holding the award felt like lifting the World Cup… No. Better than that.

Why did we win? Maybe it was because we were the underdog; because we had never been to the awards before. Perhaps it was because the Guardian wanted to give the award to an unconventional former-poly.

But I think it was because we took risks.

As Adam Westbrook’s press-night documentary explains, Editor Callum Hornigold (who took over the reins from me as we have four editors a year) decided to turn the paper into a red top-style tabloid.

It was a big production job and everyone needed to learn high-end InDesign skills and how to apply them quickly. Also stories needed to be a lot sharper and punchier.

The traditional reporting skills were way above the benchmark too and the majority of stories were generated from working the patch – rather than relying on other media or PR.

We wrote controversial features, the comment was witty rather than stuffy high-brow diatribes perhaps usually suited to student media and we loved what we were doing. It shows.

Never more will I be afraid of taking journalism risks – this amazing accolade of an award is testament to that.

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About Matthew Caines
Community & content for the Guardian Culture & Media professional networks | founder of @wannabehacks @withinreachmag | find him on Twitter @mattcaines

5 Responses to GSMA – Kingston Uni: we won “because we took risks”

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention GSMA – Kingston Uni: we won “because we took risks” « Wannabe Hacks -- Topsy.com

  2. Brian Cathcart says:

    Well done Lara. As a journalism teacher at Kingston University I’d like to add an observation.

    This was a year full of fine young journalists who worked together brilliantly and produced a terrific newspaper, and of course we are very proud of what they have achieved.

    Ours is the kind of university most vulnerable to the government’s cuts and fees policies. I would like Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Vince Cable and David Willetts to meet these young people, so they could see the kind of young talent they are in danger of wasting by their reckless and mean-spirited handling of higher education.

  3. Should really have linked to this properly in my post, but for those interested, Adam Westbrook’s documentary on the making of the winning paper can be found here: http://bit.ly/hLLZe0

  4. Alice says:

    Good for you. Really nice to see a new nomination get the prize and the fact you did it with a tabloid just confirms the lack of room for pomposity and snobbery in student media. Now it’s been made obvious that student papers aren’t about showing off how clever and well-read you are, or how many polysyllabic words you can squish uncomfortably into a sentence, it’s about providing copy that every student on campus wants to get their hands on, I imagine plenty more will follow suit.

  5. Pingback: Guardian Student Media Awards 2010, Publication of the Year: Kingston University’s River Newspaper | Lara O’Reilly’s Blog

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