How I got my first front page

Henry Holloway, 21, from the Isle of Wight, has wanted to be a journalist for as long as he can remember. He is currently studying at Brighton Journalist Works and managed to get his first front page scoop working with The Argus.

“When I rolled out of bed on November 18, I knew I had to face the dread of the NCTJ reporting exam. But I shuffled downstairs, picked up the paper and punched the air with joy as I saw my byline right there on the front page.

“I had managed to unearth a spike in exclusions for violence against teachers in Brighton & Hove primary schools. I presented the story to The Argus and spent the weekend pulling the whole thing together.

“I would like to be able to say there was a dramatic story behind how I got the scoop. It would be great to regale you with a story of undercover sleuthing and meetings in the dead of night with anonymous sources and whistle-blowers, but in reality the whole thing is much more mundane.

I simply relied on the journalist’s best friend – the Freedom of Information Act.

“Matthew Davis, one of our tutors and a prolific user of FOI, gave us the simple mantra: think of the story you want to write, not the story you expect to write, and do what you can to get the data you need.

“So his words got me thinking, wouldn’t it be good to write a story about kids beating up teachers?

“As simple as that, I pinged an email over to the city council and after four weeks twiddling my thumbs, I got back what I needed and was lucky enough to strike gold.

“Once I had the data I phoned round teachers unions, educational campaigners, local schools and the city council to get the comment and the angle that I needed to make the story sing. While a few feathers were ruffled and I was stone-walled more than once, persistence paid off and soon I had everything I needed.

“FOI is an absolute gift, one that is free and available to everyone. Once you have the data you need you can get a great story going because, after-all, who doesn’t like hearing about skeletons in councils’ closets?

“Getting my first front page has not only given me a gem for my portfolio, it has also built my confidence.

“It has helped me disconnect myself from the meek and mild student reporter and get into the mindset that ‘I am journalist’.”

You can read Henry’s story on The Argus website.