Lisa-Nicole Mitchell: The thrill of my first-ever front page story

I WOULD say I am one of the lucky ones. If you are a journalism student, trying to get some work experience, it can be a bit of a vicious cycle. If you have no experience, it can be hard to get some.

But I have some and have been spending my holidays beefing up my CV with even more.

I’ve had work experience at the Scottish Daily Mail, Clyde and Forth Press and the Scottish News of the World.

And then – thanks to my dad who seems ludicrously well-connected, even though he has no involvement with the media – I was offered work experience at the Paisley Daily Express. Where I live, it’s our biggest local newspaper.

The editor informed me via email that I should report to the offices at nine o’clock. After months of waiting to hear back from anyone, I was giddy with excitement. I couldn’t wait for my first day.

Although it was unpaid and I wasn’t guaranteed anything I was just excited that I was able to return to the atmosphere of a newsroom again. Since my first time, I was addicted. I loved the buzz of breaking news, the chill of a new crime story and the glee of fresh gossip.

I needed to be around it again.

My first day there; a Monday. I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to help with anything I could.

After a while typing, letters replying to members of the public, and writing a couple of NIBs, I was beginning to wonder if the excitement I had felt earlier had been all for nothing.

But then, my editor, probably not expecting much, told me to “see what I could find on my own”. Within 15 minutes I returned with some ideas. One that was of interest to the sport pages at the back and one that promised much, much more.

I shared with the editorial desk the story of my friend, Louise. She has suffered from Cystic Fibrosis her whole life until she finally received a long-awaited double lung transplant. This was a happy story until six months ago, when the Department of Work and Pensions decided to strip her off all her benefits, including her much-needed mobility car.

I couldn’t stand for it. I had to write about it. I was sent to interview her and get her story in detail. It was worse in her own words.

Returning back to the newsroom I was informed that my story might make front page. Awestruck, I began to work harder than ever before. I had at least three paid journalists from editorial working on MY story; it was all a bit surreal.

Finally, it was finished. All I could do was wait to see what tomorrow would bring.

Half-past eight the following morning, I lunged for the paper; and there it was, my story… front page.

My first front page! I couldn’t believe it. I tucked the newspaper neatly into the crevices of my rucksack and ran home, eager to show my friends and family. I felt I was getting closer to becoming a real journalist.

Since my front page, three MSPs have wanted to help Louise with her appeal case to get her disability benefits back.

It just goes to show that even a lowly student can help change the fate of at least one down-trodden individual, if you are willing to work at it.

Lisa-Nicole Mitchell is a third-year BA in Journalism student at Edinburgh Napier University.