Three undergraduates were asked to report on the prestigious Society of Editors’ annual conference, held in Manchester for the first time.
The students, Gavin Thomas, Martyn Parkinson and Lauren Myatt ran the press centre at the conference venue, the Radisson Edwardian.
They reported the conference exclusively and published their stories on the society’s ‘live’ website.
Among the stories was a rare speech by the head of MI5 Jonathan Evans, who outlined the growing terrorism and spy threat to the UK.
It became one of the biggest news items of the week, making headlines on BBC and many national newspapers.
The two-day conference, entitled ‘A Matter of Trust’, attracted major keynote speakers from both print and broadcast, who spoke about the need to enhance public trust by producing accurate journalism and highly-trained, ethical and motivated young journalists.
Speakers included BBC deputy director general Mark Byford, Channel 4 head of news, Dorothy Byrne and Adam Boulton, political editor of Sky News and Alastair Stewart, ITN.
Editors from newspapers included Colin Myler, News of the World, Paul Horrocks, Manchester Evening News, the society’s outgoing president, Peter Wright, Mail on Sunday and William Lewis, Daily and Sunday Telegraph.
The students reported speeches made by other high calibre guests including the Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald and Information Commissioner Richard Thomas.
Journalism tutor Pete Leydon said: “I was proud of the mature manner in which the students represented the University. They reported the conference with great skill. They also had a sense of occasion and wore their Sunday best!
“It was a line-up of major speakers that would have intimidated many experienced journalists, but the students got on with the job and constantly updated the society website. They also had to be up to speed with their shorthand.”
The students were also able to mix with the great and the good at a gala dinner at Salford Quays on the planned site of the BBC.
And here they met that other big hitter, world champion boxer Ricky Hatton, who was an entertaining guest speaker.
Pete added: “It was invaluable experience for the students and also strengthened the University’s links with the industry.”
Lauren said: "The whole experience, for me, was eye-opening and the opportunity to have my work published and read by the most important people in the industry was simply priceless."
Gavin said: “It comes as valuable experience to be put in that kind of situation, where you have to think on your feet. There was something very satisfying about seeing your name on the website the next day.”
Society of Editors Executive Director Bob Satchwell said: “The students gave us our best coverage ever and set new standards for next year’s conference. It is important that the industry develops strong links with universities offering journalism, such as Staffordshire. Our theme was a Matter of Trust. It is vital that trainee journalists are aware of their ethical obligations.”