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Junior journos hit the jackpot

It was all glamour at the first Scottish School Magazine awards

SECONDARY SCHOOL pupils congregated in the Scottish Parliament this month for the inaugural Scottish School Magazine awards.

With TV presenter Carol Smillie hosting the event, and a judging panel of industry figures including the publishing director of Hello!, the aim was to create the feel of a professional awards ceremony.

The competition was launched by the Periodical Publishers Association Scotland, backed by the Determined to Succeed strategy, to encourage pupils to consider a magazine career. Two hundred pupils attended the event.

Scottish School Magazine of the Year went to Bootleg, by Boroughmuir High in Edinburgh - "an exciting and interesting magazine packed with good writing and quality production", said judges.

The winning team will see its magazine professionally printed in York and attend the Scottish Magazine Awards at the Dynamic Earth centre in Edinburgh in November. The winning editorial team has also been invited to send a reporter to cover the opening of Parliament on June 30.

Bootleg's editor, Xin Ran Liu, 17, walked away with the Outstanding Individual award for his "passion and commitment".

The magazine, which comes out every two months, has an opinion section, short story column, politics, interviews, reviews, photography, artwork and graphics.

Xin's role is mainly in production. "The team had to make do with MS Word 2003," he says. "Every time you move some writing, the picture jumps a page."

Xin hopes to gain journalism experience in his gap year before studying physics at university. An independent media is, he believes, "one of the most important things in a democratic society".

Portobello High's annual magazine, RePortobello, picked up the prize for best editorial content and team. Its editor, Ishbel Eunson, hopes to study journalism with languages at Stirling University.

"I think it was Arthur Miller who said a good newspaper is the nation talking to itself," she says. "It's reflecting people's views."

With guidance from Joanna Allen, principal teacher of English, Ishbel developed an understanding of editorial standards, so when a pupil submitted two articles - one on depression and one on alcohol - that Ishbel felt were not thoroughly enough researched, she discussed them with the writer, who went away and rewrote them.

"They're now two of our best articles," she says. "If it's not good enough, it won't get published," is her bottom line.

"It's the kids' opportunity to have their say," says Mrs Allen. "As long as they do it in a way that is balanced and fair, I defend them."

Breakout, the magazine of Lawside Academy in Dundee, picked up the prize for Best Online Presence for its site, which features articles on size zero models, reality TV, fashion and music, as well as teacher interviews, reviews, sport reports, global affairs, photographs of school events and interactive games.

Stromnessian, the magazine of Stromness Academy in Orkney, won Best Title and Cover - with a painting of a man in a hat by S6 pupil Alex Ashman, and the caption: "The show's about to begin."

The original Stromnessian ceased publication 20 years ago, but it was revived this year and contains prose, poetry and artwork.

Presiding officer Alex Fergusson MSP said: "The fate of Scotland's print media lies in the hands of the editors, writers, designers and publishers of the future."

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