A journalism student from Staffordshire University has been crowned the top political reporter in the Student Midlands Media Awards 2015.
Mike Barnes (pictured), in his final year on the BA Journalism course in Stoke-on-Trent, was among eight shortlisted in the Politics category.
And his exclusive FOI story, published by StaffsLive, and based on how Stoke-on-Trent City Council spent more than £150,000 on an empty house, wowed the judging panel.
The judges remarked: “Mike showed initiative by taking an excellent exclusive following a Freedom of Information Act and executed it well. He created a well-structured story with a strong introduction and used a good choice of quotes – fantastic work!”
Mike, from Longton, who also runs a political blog in Stoke-on-Trent, said: “I was gob-smacked when I found out, but really chuffed!
“The NCTJ course and tutors have been brilliant in teaching great practical tools like FOI alongside the other core skills.
“For a mature student like me, who has returned to education after a long time away, I could not have asked for more.”
Pete Leydon, BA Journalism Course Leader at Staffordshire University, said: “Mike has used the FOI tool exceptionally well, and has secured a number of top political stories during his course.
“Among many things, they learn about FOI, its importance, and how to use it as a practising journalist in their first year.
“It often leads to great stories, but Mike has also used his excellent political contacts to obtain strong reaction and balance, too.”
Staffordshire University, which runs a number of accredited undergraduate and postgraduate journalism degrees, had 11 finalists at the awards.
One of those, Monica Rimmer, who studies the BJTC-accredited Broadcast Journalism course, was highly commended by judges in her category.
Seven others studied courses accredited by National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).
As well as Mike, these included Tom Parry, Rebecca Heyes, Antoine Omisore, Joshua Pennington, Rosalie Watts (all BA Journalism), Jack Sexty (MA Journalism).
They were finalists in a range of categories, including Sports, Fashion, News, and Entertainment.
Around 10 colleges and universities running journalism courses were represented at the awards night at The Studio in Birmingham on April 14.